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5 Reasons to Cozy Up At Home this Fall

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1. The Night Circus 
I’m starting off this list with a sorcery-saaked book hit from 2011 for good reason. I don’t know abut you, but I am fed up with Fall, 2019! Well, with all the disappointing sequels coming out now anyway. I read The Testaments by Margaret Atwood along with Nerdette podcast’s inaugural bookclub, and I thought it was two-dimensional. (*Spoiler alert: the Nerdette crew hated it, too.*) I’m a huge Margaret Atwood fan– some might even say fangirl, so that’s a gut-wrenching admission. I was similarly excited for Rainbow Rowell’s follow-up to Carry On, her Fangirl (the excellent book) inspired-take on Harry Potter. Wayward Son has also gotten mixed reviews, so burned once, etc. Yes, I’ll probably still read it… (I also really love Rainbow Rowell. If you’ve never read her books, start with the unmagical but unequivocally wonderful Eleanor & Park!) Meanwhile, The Night Circus also concerns magicians. I love a good magic read when temperatures dip and Hallowe’en is in the air.I know you can’t always go by reviews, but my need for others’ opinions is how bad the last few hyped books I’ve read have been, and The Night Circus has nearly 6,000 positive reviews. I wish I HAD read the customer reviews of The Testaments or My Year of Rest and Relaxation. (Both very poorly reviewed by readers with weirdly laudatory reviews by professional publications.) Safety in numbers. 

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2. When Harry Met Sally

I recently re-watched When Harry Met Sally, because it was featured on The Rewatchables, one of my favorite podcasts! I wish I’d waited for fall to re-watch it, though. As you can see from the movie poster alone, it is somehow a fall movie, even though it takes place over the course of many years! Most of the scenes take place in and around New York City in the fall, which gives me the same feeling in my heart that people who love pumpkin spice latté seem to experience in theirs. The scenes are all painted in ochre and sepia tones, and the scenery is as crisp and soothing as the smart, crackling dialogue by Nora Ephron. I also worship Meg Ryan’s tailored trousers and artfully cozy layers. Not only will you be pleasantly surprised at how well this movie has aged but you might even get some fall outfit inspo ideas. Her 1989-era fashion looks that current!


3. French Fall Lookbooks

Can’t make it to Paris this autumn for Paris Fashion Week? Moi non plus, le sigh. Know what you can do? You can check out so many beautiful fall lookbooks online. Maybe cozy up with a cup of tea or be extra Parisian and grab a shot of espresso and pick out one special piece as a consolation prize! (If that’s still out of your budget, send me the piece of your dreams and I bet I can find the French designer version for you secondhand for peanuts.). Here are a few of my fave autumn lookbooks from Paris: RoujeBa&h, Sandro, Balzac Paris, MajeSézane, and Musier Paris  . A few of them don’t charge shipping from France, either! I know Sézane doesn’t if you spend $200 or become a regular shopper there, and they also usually include a little gift as well. 

Above: I’m wearing the one special piece I ordered from Sézane last fall. (This bag is no longer available online, but I found the same one secondhand. Follow me on the Like To Know It app to shop it!) My coat is from Rouje last fall as well and is still available in their stores, not sure about online. Psss, did you know Rouje is doing a pop-up shop in NYC this fall? I bought my Tory Burch booties pre-owned but in new condition from Tradesy!

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4. Best Fall Podcasts 2019

As I mentioned in my first example, I’m not a huge fan of hype, having been burned a lot recently. However, Vulture put together an intriguing list of all the new podcasts coming out this fall. If you like crime pods– something about Hallowe’en seems to make a lot of publications who post these lists online go there with their lists– but nothing too gory or graphic– I’ve personally had it up to here with the whole true crime trend– then check out Criminal! It’s more like a Fresh Air episode with a broken law theme. It’s smart and interesting rather than voyeuristic and horrifying. Specifically, you’ve got to go listen to their pod on “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes”. Actually, that one is a little gorier than most of their fare, but the crimes in that episode were committed more than a century ago, so I guess that helped me not feel as nauseated. And the so-called “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” is a real historical figure! One of the first female detectives in the U.S.! She specialized in finding lost girls, and her story remains sadly relevant. Which leads me to my last but not least fall reading rec… 


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5. True Crime But Make it Feminist!

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation is quite a mouthful but also sounds like an incredible read, right? I can also happily tell you the reviews are largely positive (phew!). Also, the podcast episode about the real-life Mrs. Sherlock Holmes on Criminal features an interview with Brad Ricca, the author, and his enthusiasm for his subject is definitely catching! Really looking forward to digging into this incredible tale while cozied up by a fire with a cup of hot cocoa…


What’s on your fall reading, watching, listening list? xx

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10 Pieces to Build The Capsule Wardrobe Even A French Girl Would Envy

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I’ve always envied women who have a uniform. Not like an actual uniform, although it does sound nice to know exactly what you’re going to wear every day, especially at 6:30 in the morning when I am bleary-eyed, contemplating which sweatpants I can get away with for the morning school run without triggering looks of concern from my children’s teachers.

By uniform, I mean the word in the sense fashion has co-opted it to mean: a look that is uniquely that woman’s own look and that she can conjure into existence easily, quickly, and mysteriously with the same blouse or jeans that might look boring on me and instead look simple and sophisticated on her. In a word: effortless style, which every woman knows is an illusion, but an illusion I’ve longed to learn the trick of, the way I used to practice flipping coins around my fingers for hours when I was a child. I never did learn how to conjure coins from children’s ears.. and have more or less lost the ambition to do so, to be honest. But here are a few tricks I have picked up from living in and around New York and Paris or at least Parisians like my older sister, some of my friends, and a bunch of my children’s teachers*  for most of my adult life.

*A proviso: Keep in mind, these days Parisian style is more a state of mind than a geographical requirement! I’m French-American, a dual citizen, so my kids go to a bilingual school in Philadelphia, and I really need to start the French language learning portion of this blog sooner than later… Anyway, I’ve geared this post towards a French take on capsule wardrobes, because I find myself most inspired by that aesthetic, but you could recreate this capsule wardrobe (and if you do, please tag me!) as a Portland girl or New York girl (or woman or boy!) or any of the aesthetics that match either the region you’re from or the region that most resonates with you. Also, you might be surprised how many of the pieces below you already possess in your closet and how it really only does take a tweak here or there to make those basics WERK! 

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 1. Striped Top

I had to start this list with off with ze famous striped top (and get really in-depth with it), because, in my experience, that’s what springs to mind when anyone hears “French girl style”. I’m not sure how the striped top became ubiquitous with French style, and I feel like a study in that subject could become an essay of its own! I do know, when I was acting in New York, a casting agent literally cast me as Miss France in a music video for that HBO show Flight of the Conchords, only because I was French and then… my language speaking skills ended up having nothing to do with the part.

I still reckon it had more to do with the fact I’d also said I owned a striped top.

Luckily, I thought it was funny when they asked me to show up on set with said striped top, as well as capri pants and a beret. (All of which, I’d owned but had never put together in one look, because…urgh.) When they handed me a baguette to carry around on stage, I wondered if I ought to be offended. I 100% knew for a fact MANY of my French relatives would have been offended by the reductive stereotype, but then Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie turned up on set, which was in this huge, abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn near, or maybe even part of, the Navy Shipyards. The two stars had a zany, infectious energy. I sighed, deciding to just have fun with it.

After the video shot, me and a bunch of the other “ladies of the world” walked back to the subway together, talking, laughing, more than a little frightened by the odd, abandoned corner of New York City we’d spent the morning working in. Still, it ended up being a great memory.

That said, I would urge caution when wielding the striped top! You don’t want to look like a reductive French cliché, even if so many of us do want to look like a Parisian girl. Go for fit and experiment with the stripes and colors that look best on you. I love this striped top by Ronny Kobo that I’m wearing above, and that I found secondhand on eBay. The bell sleeves make it special and the cropped top goes great with high-waisted jeans. (Another staple of the French girl capsule wardrobe. See Tip #3!) Also here’s the video. Feel free to laugh at my ridiculous costume if you can spot me!

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2. Neutral Heels

Okay, if you’re still reading, I LOVE YOU and because I love you, I will try to keep the rest of this list succinct. I did have to reference the time I LITERALLY WORE A FRENCH GIRL UNIFORM when writing a French girl capsule wardrobe post, after all, right???

​Anyway, back to the list: so, I found these pre-owned cap-toed Chanel heels from 2016 on Tradesy in brand-new condition last year! There are now a bunch of similar versions available from Sam Edelman and others at ShopBop. I linked to them on the Like To Know It app. You can follow me there to shop both my new and thrifted and vintage picks! Also, really any sort of neutral heel will work at making a jeans and tee outfit look a little more polished. Look for a neutral color that matches your skin tone. It will help to elongate your legs! (Also, a neutral, round-toed heel goes with everything.) Something else to look for: I have become a huge fan of two inch heels. Yes, maybe it’s because I’m a busy mom, but I also love clothes, as in this capsule wardrobe post, that can be worn in multiple ways. And I find two-inch heels go easily from day to night! 

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)3. High-waisted light denim 

As I mentioned above, this style goes great with cropped tops. It also makes easier to tuck in a sweater. Another way to tweak your outfit French. Or half-tuck that sweater for a sophisticated but relaxed-looknig “French tuck”  as Tan, one of the Queer Eye guys has even dubbed that tweak.

As for high-waisted denim, you can find loads of them in vintage shops. I also love these sustainably made Agolde jeans I bought new at Revolve, because they’re made of recycled materials and the 90s fit is just right. FYI I also love Levi’s, one of the few huge brands making a sustainable initiatives. There is also not only something French, but something ’90s timeless about high-waisted jeans. I was recently re-watching Friends and this lightwash look is the one most favored by Monica’s character! In fact, I loved ALL of the Friends’ outfits all of a sudden. The ’90s are unequivocally seeing a comeback. Most of all, though, I noticed the built-to-last quality of the “Friends'” clothes. I don’t know if this recent pushback against fast fashion is part of that 90s come-back, but the clothes Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe wear in the show looked less trendy, sturdier, and more wearable– aka modern! I hope the trend continues! Check this piece out in The Washington Post about the recent “tipping point” in fast fashion. Also, Elizabeth Cline, who I recently interviewed here is quoted in the piece!

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4. A black leather jacket

Okay, phew, I promised to stick to the point, but, you guys, fashion and its history and vintage stuff and costumes might be my favorite thing to chat about. (I love books and movies, too. I have an upcoming post about some picks for fall good reads and fireside watches.) I admit I get a little over-enthused. I’ll let the rest of the pieces speak for themselves, except to say I found this Maje jacket new with tags on eBay!!! AND the seller has several more new and pre-owned versions in his eBay shop, including a few by Sandro and others. Follow me on the Like To Know It app to see the others! A classic leather jacket is unquestionably an item you can easily score secondhand, while upping the quality of the garment, no matter your budget. For example, my pre-owned jacket cost a fifth of the price of a new Maje jacket by buying it secondhand, even with having to pay $30 to ship it from Russia!

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5. A black tailored skirt & 6. Cat-eyed sunglasses or classic black sunglasses

I’m endlessly thrifting beautiful, tailored black skirts and experimenting with which length looks best on me. I like just above the knee or right on the knee. I purchased a short Reformation skirt this summer, and I felt so uncomfortable. Being sexy and chic isn’t about showing a lot of skin. It’s about being comfortable in said skin. (Urgh, you know what I mean, I hope.) Cat-eyed sunglasses also come in different shapes btw, so don’t write the style off because one pair, once at a fair or a vintage shop didn’t suit you! Even if you really think they don’t suit you, you might want to try experimenting with thinner or thicker frames. I have a rounder pair that don’t suit me as well as these YSL sunnies above. They’re Nina Ricci, and I ought to find them a more loving home in my Poshmark closet… https://poshmark.com/closet/isabelladavid.  

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7. White button-down tailored shirt & 8. A Nice Black or Brown Belt

I would argue that item #7 is maybe the most important one in your French girl capsule wardrobe, more important even than a striped top, but I promised to keep my asides to a minimum. If you, as I used to do, think white blouses are boring, may I suggest two remedies:

a. Maybe try a different style of white blouse than the classic buttoned-down version. One, say, without a collar? Or maybe a lacy, delicate version to help you ease into the look? There’s nothing corporate or cold or masculine (if such is your complaint) about a white, lacey Edwardian or Victorian blouse. 

b. Check out Jane Birkin in a white, button-down shirt, And realize what you have been missing all your life and all you needed in your toolkit was this shirt. (Mine is by Sézane and the belt is from Rouje. I feel like the R confuses people swimming in a sea of Gucci “G”s and it makes me giggle.) 

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9. A soft neutral sweater in a classic cut

I began buying my sweaters secondhand when I realized I could get Isabel Marant sweaters and cashmere sweaters for peanuts online. I never fret if they pill, and actually, because of the original price point and the quality of the fibers, they rarely do.

Anyway, my point is, this list of classic, built-to-last essentials is within anyone’s means if you do a little hunting for quality in a thrift store or on eBay! And all these pieces are easily found and mixed and matched. (Mine in the image above, which I originally shot for a post on “How to Do a Fishtail Braid”, is by Isabel Marant from Poshmark. It retails for $400, I think. I got it for $50!) That leads me to the last but not least… 

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10. White Jeans or White Trousers That You Can Wear Any Season

This is a new one for me and maybe even more challenging than learning to embrace a button-down top– the one struck me as too conservative before, while the other I felt restricted from wearing in any season by the same conservative mindset I was eschewing. I used to keep my white pants for summer, but the more French style accounts or Jane Birkin fan accounts I follow, the more open I’ve become to wearing white jeans all year round. If the thought worries you, start a little easier with a pair of beautifully tailored trousers instead.

Or don’t!

The beauty of this list is that I’m suggesting you seek out the most basic, neutral pieces from your wardrobe and really start putting them to work, focusing on making them werk for you, instead of buying new, trendy pieces that you never end up wearing more than once. Instead of that noise, focus on caring for the clothes you do own, filling in the gaps in your wardrobe where you find them and then from there, ensure a good fit by getting to know your local tailor or cobbler! Most of all, have lots of fun finding ways to create sophisticated looks with the pieces you own and maybe, every season, a fresh accessory or basic or two. 

As I’ve been exploring finding a sense of my own style through this blog, I’ve more and more come to appreciate the classic simplicity and elegance of the so-called “French girl”. Even if the above pieces felt costume-y and dressed-up at first, more and more I crave a sense of elegance, simplicity, and ease of dressing. I also appreciate that when I buy a piece that fits within that French girl ethos or uniform, a. it’s nice to know the piece will probably never go out of style and b. I love that it’s easy to mix and match all these basics and always come out of with a stunning combination! ​​

What do you think? Which look is your favorite? Which pieces would be on your own list of necessities?

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Take Five with Author Elizabeth L. Cline

It’s 2019. Trends have never been cheaper or more accessible, yet we all still share a complicated, if not tortured, relationship with shopping and our closet. Evidence A of the ubiquitous unhealthy relationship linked to shopping: a few days ago, I saw the meme below, laughed with a friend, and would have forgotten it, but, to my surprise, the joke went deeper and struck a chord with many. On the popular meme account @mytherapistsays, it’s racked up 150,000 likes as of the writing of this blog post with many laugh emoji responses but also many sad or shame-faced emojis posted as well. One of the sustainable fashion journalists on Instagram that I follow used the meme in her stories to conduct an impromptu poll and was shocked enough to try to start a conversation about our collective sadness on her page here.
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As accessible as fashion has become these days, have you still ever felt dissatisfied with your closet? *Raises hand.* Do you tend to shop when you’re sad and often feel like you have nothing to wear? *Raises other hand in a gesture of surrender.*

Joking aside, I used to feel that way ALL THE TIME. And now I still do, sure, but much less frequently, although I still do tend to browse or thrift when I’m feeling a little down. Scoring an Ulla Johnson dress for $50 or a pair of 3X1 denim jeans in my size secondhand is a quick pick-me-up. However, I’ve recently learned that it’s just as satisfying (and MUCH better for my budget) to shop my own closet and put together new looks with old pieces. For the first time in my life, I finally really love what I already own. The big change for me was learning to fully embrace my passion for the art of fashion. That impulse was also born around the same time as the Fashion Revolution spurred by the tragedy of the Rana Plaza disaster. That was about six years ago now, and since then my relationship with fashion has changed not only my closet but my life. 

Those lessons were hard-learned over the past six years, so I wish I’d encountered a guidebook like Elizabeth L. Cline’s The Conscious Closet to help me articulate and sum up the struggle earlier on. The Conscious Closet is not only a book that will teach you the ins and outs of sustainable fashion, it’s also a handy guidebook for how to appreciate and care for what you have as well as a how to guide to help you curate a sustainable fashion closet that you actually enjoy. In the past six years, I’ve grown to love caring for my garments as much as wearing them, because they’ve become a collection of beautiful and useful things instead of a major source of frustration and even shame over my fast fashion habit. From new slow fashion brands to check out to new ways to help reduce my footprint to the names of the stitches that help make my Rouje garments so special that my tailor LITERALLY gasps in joy when he sees them– seriously!– Elizabeth’s book enriched my understanding of why I find fashion so compelling.

Whether you are a sustainable fashionista yourself or you are feeling overwhelmed hearing terms like sustainable vs. slow vs. conscious fashion often used interchangeably, this is the book for you. Click to pre-order Elizabeth’s latest book here or read on below for a fascinating glimpse behind the writing scenes! 

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 1. I’d love to hear about your writing environment! What are the essentials you need around you, if any? A favorite place to write? How long did you spend writing “The Conscious Closet”? 

I love talking about the writing process! To write a book, I have to be able to concentrate without any distractions, meaning no sounds, emails or phone calls, and limited social engagements, which as you might imagine meant putting my life on hold and leaving New York City as often as possible. I tried to write in the City and couldn’t get a flow going. I was at my local co-working space in Brooklyn one day, trying to finish a chapter, and a children’s party came in and started carving pumpkins while I was writing. A kid popped a balloon right by my face. My downstairs neighbors also liked to play dubstep when I was working. Eventually, I took off to my mom’s house in rural South Georgia to write. There, I can work at a table that looks out over a pond. It’s so quiet you can hear a pin drop. I also rented an AirBnB in an old house with a big yard and porch in Atlanta for a few weeks. I only had about eight months to write the book, which isn’t enough time, but I knew I needed to get the book out ASAP. I also read constantly when I write, as reading helps cultivate the ability to focus and think deeply. This time, I read a slew of how-to books on totally unrelated subjects, like Dale Carnegie’s 1948 bestseller How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It gave me great ideas for how to structure The Conscious Closet. Unfortunately, it did not help me stop worrying about my book deadline.
 
 
2. I believe you’re originally from Georgia, but do you consider yourself a New Yorker now? Also, I loved how much travel featured in the book, too! Were you always interested in traveling as part of your writing process? What’s your favorite place you’ve visited for work or for fun?
 

I don’t consider myself a New Yorker most of the time, although I should after 17 years here. I’m very attached to the South, and to the rural place where I grew up. If you’ve seen Friday Night Lights, that was my childhood, but crossed with The Decline of Western Civilization. I did end up with a Southern partner. My boyfriend Joe is from Little Rock. Anyway, I’ve been lucky to travel to almost a dozen countries to research and promote sustainable and ethical fashion. I don’t have a favorite place, I just love getting to see behind the scenes and deep into the fashion supply chain. 

Traveling the world certainly shapes the way you craft a message or think about a social problem like sustainable and ethical fashion. I’ll give you a couple of examples. There is a lot of emphasis on innovation in sustainable fashion right now, where people seem to think we’re going to be wearing lab-grown textiles in a few years. But, I’ve also spent time in a lot of textile mills, including Italian textile mills, where they’re crafting wool and leather and other ancient materials, but in very high-tech, sustainable factories. What’s more, anyone who studies the petrochemical industry knows that the world is going to be wearing lots and lots of plastic-basic fabrics moving forward, not less, so as advocates we have to face that reality head on rather than pretend that it’s going to go away.
 
My on-the-ground experiences have changed how I think about innovation and what the future is going to look like. Secondly, my experiences in Nairobi, Kenya, researching the secondhand clothing industry, shaped so much of The Conscious Closet. Sustainable fashion is rushing forward with this message that recycling textiles is going to save us. But in my perspective, you can’t have that conversation without including the traders in Nairobi and across the global secondhand trade in the developing world. Garbage is political and so is donating clothes. Plus, if you look at the problems with the plastic recycling market, we know that recycling is no panacea.
 
 
3. How did the idea occur to you to write such a complete handbook on sustainable fashion? There’s definitely such confusion, even mystification around terms like slow fashion, conscious fashion, and sustainable fashion. I myself didn’t realize I’d been misusing the term “slow fashion” until I read the book. And I’ve read a lot of books on sustainable fashion. There’s definitely nothing else as comprehensive and helpful out there.

Thank you! Perhaps I’ve been misusing the term slow fashion, too? Ha! I definitely wanted to avoid sustainable fashion jargon with this book and just put everything under the umbrella of conscious fashion. I’m not advocating for “conscious fashion” being the word we use; I just needed one simple word to keep the book streamlined and focused, an umbrella to put our cause and all of this information under. The whole point of the book was to reach the widest possible audience, from the hardcore labor activists, of which I am one, to the minimalist dressers to those people who really love fashion and just don’t want to feel bad when they get dressed every day. That meant the book had to have some breadth.
 
​But, that said, I was shocked at how comprehensive the book ended up being. That wasn’t really the plan. The original idea was more about slow fashion, shopping for quality, and building a beautiful wardrobe, but that message only reaches so many people. If I’d stopped there, I’d leave out all the influencers whose livelihoods depend on wearing something different every day, for example. 

As a journalist, I found myself wanting to go further once I sat down to write. I want people to have all of the information they need at their fingertips. Not all of it is applicable to everyone, but there’s certainly something for everyone in that book. There’s so much to know and to learn about clothing, and currently that information is spread across the Internet or is hidden from consumers. I wanted to put it all in one place and back it up with sources. I found myself adding the chapters on toxic chemicals in fashion, the impact of different materials, and the importance of labor organizing to the future of ethical fashion without really planning to. Now I can’t imagine the book any other way!
 
 
4. What are some of your favorite sustainable brands for fashion or otherwise? I learned from your book that Patagonia is an even greater company than I’d realized, so I recently purchased  this guppybag from them for #PlasticFreeJuly. (FYI in the book, Elizabeth states that changing your laundry habits is the best way to change your fashion footprint!)

“If you are looking to change one single set of habits that will slash your fashion footprint and keep your clothes looking better longer, look no further than your laundry room.”

-Elizabeth L. Cline

I can’t believe how much easier it is so find socially conscious brands nowadays. When I finished Overdressed*, sustainable and ethical fashion brands were obscure and hard to find. I try not to choose favorites. I felt comfortable and proud including Eileen Fisher and Reformation in the book because those brands really do go above and beyond to examine their practices and to be more sustainable. In my closet, I have jeans by Nudie and MUDJeans, both are sustainable denim brands. I have a fantastic pair of Tencel dress pants, made from sustainably sourced rayon, by Amour Vert, a West Coast based sustainable brand that was one of the first eco-brands I was ever introduced to. I’ve got a gorgeous organic cotton button-down shirt by Grammar NYC. My two newest bathing suits are both made of recycled nylon, AKA ecoNyl, and one is by Mara Hoffman and the other is SummerSalt. I’ve got several basics by Everlane, a brand leading the movement for transparency in fashion. And I have lots of secondhand Stella McCartney, a designer whose innovation and activism has transformed the luxury industry. One day, perhaps, I’ll be able to buy her stuff new!
 
5. Besides your own book, which is an absolute sustainable fashion bible that everyone needs to read, what are three books about sustainability that you might recommend for further reading?

I love this question! There need to be more books and sustainable and ethical fashion. The food movement has dozens of books and documentaries on that industry, so we really do need more. But, that said, there are so many books on the fashion movement that I love. Lucy Siegle’s To Die For and Clare Press’s Wardrobe Crisis both lay out with clarity the fashion problem and what must be done about it. Of course, I’d like to say that Overdressed, my first book, is the founding text on how fast fashion warped our culture and economy. I also love Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert, which looks at how cotton shaped modern capitalism and impoverished the places like Bangladesh that we now exploit for textile making. Teri Agins brilliant The End of Fashion talks about how corporate control of fashion pretty much ruined creativity in the industry. Fake Silk is a harrowing investigation into the toxic history of rayon manufacturing. And journalist Dana Thomas has a wonderful new book, Fashionopolis, that looks at the innovations the fashion industry is betting on to solve sustainability.  

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Thanks so much for sharing your writing process, hilarious observations, and inspiration with my blog readers, Elizabeth! FYI Elizabeth is also the author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. With over 200 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, it’s a must-read as well. Find a copy here or pre-order a copy of The Conscious Closet, her latest sustainable fashion handbook, here

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Fresh From the Lavender Farm: 5 EveryDay Uses for Lavender

I was paging through Instagram this past weekend (as one does) and fell totally in love with all the lavender fields popping up on my feed. A sigh of longing bubbled up from deep inside, when it suddenly occurred to me that we live near a lot of farms, and that there might even be a lavender farm nearby…

Read on for our adventure and five more  uses for lavender below! 


                                                             What We’re Wearing:
 
We live in Philadelphia, and the surrounding farms in Bucks County and New Jersey are incredible. Check out our trip to a nearby tulip farm this spring! Also love that we managed matching thrifted looks on that trip as well.

​Here we’re wearing our new spring dresses by sustainable designer Doên. My dress is still available here​, and here is one similar to Harper’s that’s still available. 

A quick Google search revealed a handful of quaint lavender farms in our vicinity. I picked this one, Peace Valley Lavender Farm,  based both on proximity and Trip Advisor reviews. Next, I sweet- talked my husband into a “spontaneous family adventure!” Peace Valley Lavender Farm is only 25 miles from Philadelphia, but the trip still takes an hour because it’s all back roads to get there. We enjoyed the ride, though, passing endless charming colonial farmhouses, antique shops, the most haunted-looking, creepiest castle we’ve ever seen, and even some animal farms. The kids weren’t as keen on peeping lavender, but the emus, llamas, cows, and chickens we spotted along the way more than delighted them. I myself was delighted when I got home and realized it had been almost one solid year since I’d first learned about lavender and written about 6 easy uses for it in a previous post published on June 29, 2018. I love those kind of coincidences!

Here’s an updated list following a year of learning, an adventure at an actual lavender farm, and my discussion with its friendly owner, Patti Lyons*, who was kind enough to share some of her expertise and recommendations with me!

*Incidentally, Patti shared that the best times to get your lavender pics are usually the third or fourth week of June but that some varieties of lavender will bloom again in the fall.

5 More Uses For Lavender

1. Preserved- Lavender Lemons

In the Peace Valley Lavender Farm gift shop, I couldn’t resist purchasing a copy of The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley, even though I am a TERRIBLE cook and should never be allowed near a kitchen. (Don’t worry, you guys. My husband writes the recipes for my food section!)

The cookbook (pictured above) is made of beautiful parchment paper, filled with luscious illustrations, and even scented with lavender. Non-existent cooking abilities, it was irresistible.

As I was checking out, I got to chatting with Patti, the owner of Peace Valley Lavender Farm. She was really sweet and helpful and told me if I only make one recipe from the book– it was like she could see inside my devious mind– it should be lemons preserved in lavender.

“Whenever you make a Mediterranean dish, lavender lemons will give it such a kick!”

I nodded and agreed whole-heartedly, even though I had NO CLUE what she was talking about as my idea of the ideal flavor is mixing canned chili with pre-shedded Mexican cheese. However, my husband got inspired when I shared her tip with him, and I figured any of the cooks out there who stumble on this blog could benefit from her tips as well! I found an extremely similar recipe to the one in the book at Homespun Living. The only difference is Sharon Shipley recommends adding extra virgin olive oil to the top of your mixture before sealing up the jars, as well as 1/3 cup of sugar (for 8 lemons not 2) and 3 tablespoons of minced garlic. When we make it, I’ll definitely share the recipe to my food section! 

2. Lavender Sachets as a Natural Moth Solution

One year ago, we were living in a modern apartment. Since then, we’ve moved into a very old house. It was renovated down to its studs before we moved in, but we still have a little bit of a bug situation, which is normal I suppose when you’re living smack in a garden instead of 11 stories high up in the air. Well, did you know lavender is a natural moth deterrent? Mothballs can contain dangerous pesticides, but lavender is all natural (obviously!) and an old home-maker’s trick. It’s also Martha Stewart-approved. Read more about her endorsement of this old trick here

3. Lavender for Insomnia

I mentioned this tip last time I wrote about lavender here, but as someone who’s been suffering from a bout of insomnia recently I was happy to have this tip recalled to my memory! If you’re suffering from insomnia, it’s really helpful to add lavender to your nighttime routine and to create a soothing atmosphere in your bedroom before you try to fall asleep. I still love my little humidifier and it’s worth the extra minute to fill it with water and turn it on before I go to sleep. You can even add essential oils like lavender to it. Did you know lavender essential oils offer calming and soothing properties that help reduce stress?

4. Lavender Oil for Cleaning

I also forgot about this tip from my last post! Granted, it’s a lot easier to keep a big, old house smelling fresh than it was a packed-tight apartment. However, we still have a cat bathroom, and I remember now how much it helped neutralize odors to add real lavender oil to our lavender-scented Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning bottles. Lavender oil has tremendous antibacterial and deodorizing properties! 

5. Lavender Tea

As you can see from the first picture above, lavender can be drunk as well as eaten. The lavender sodas we bought at the farm were perfect for a hot summer day but a little high in sugar for regular consumption. Not only does lavender have many external uses, but you can also add lavender both to recipes or to teas. Making lavender tea is very easy as well! You simply place the lavender buds into a tea ball or sachet and steep in hot water for a few minutes. (Just make sure you purchase the edible kind.)

Lavender has all kind of health properties when applied internally or externally. You can also read more about the many magical uses of lavender at Medical News Today.  Do you use lavender in your daily life? 

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#PlasticFreeJuly: What, Why, How!

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Last year was the first time #PlasticFreeJuly appeared on my radar. Once you become aware of how much plastic we use, and toss, on a daily basis, you’ll notice wastefulness everywhere. You might feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, but it helped when I accepted that it’s going to be a process to change my own daily habits and hopefully influence others to do so… and they’ll influence others and so on! That month of questioning my daily habits helped me make some important changes in 2018. You can read more about that here.

If you haven’t heard of #PlasticFreeJuly yet, no worries! I hope this will be the year you’ll consider joining in! 

What #PlasticFreeJuly is:

#PlasticFreeJuly is about becoming aware of, and hopefully reducing your plastic use– especially single-use plastic– at home, work, even at your favorite, local cafe! It all began with only 40 households in Perth in 2011 as an initiative by the Earth Carers Waste Education Team in Western Australia. From 40 households, it’s grown to be a global movement with millions of participants! So small changes can make a difference. For example, last year I learned that there’s plastic in some very unexpected places like my teabags. I invested in this $15.95 tea strainer– (the package actually comes with two, so you can gift the other to a friend or family member!)– and it has only added another layer of beauty to my nightly ritual of a cup of peppermint tea and a good book or a quiet chance to peruse inspiration photos on Instagram. Basically, as a hectic mommy, it’s become my favorite time of day.

How #PlasticFreeJuly works:

Can you identify ways in which you use single-use plastic in your daily life or see it happening around you? I’ve realized this year that I’ve gotten so much better about my plastic use as a blogger/ human but have not made as many strides in my role as a mother. What I mean by that: if we were only judging my carbon footprint, it would be minimal. I make very little laundry and wash most of my clothes by hand, drive very few places and prefer to walk, wear mostly thrifted clothes, and eat a mostly vegan and vegetarian diet. So far, so amazing… or it would be but I’m also a mom of two kids and drive them everywhere to their activities and use TONS of plastic to care for them from juice boxes to other food packaging– not to mention all the disposable diapers, ugh. Not so great.

Here are some simple changes I’m making in my role as both a mom and blogger this #PlasticFreeJuly.

1. No more juiceboxes.

My kids are now old enough to get ice water for themselves, so I realized one simple way I can reduce single-use plastic in my home is to quite buying juice boxes. This #PlasticFreeJuly I plan to experiment with buying glass bottles of apple juice, and seeing if I can teach my kids to fill their reusable cups half with water and half with juice on those occasions when they prefer juice to water. (I also already thrift their clothes, but that’s because it just makes sense. You can buy designer children’s items for prices cheaper than at Target, and the clothes are often just as brand-new! And much nicer quality!)

2. Purchasing a guppybag to use in the washing machine.

Another change I can make in my role as a mother, is to start washing our blankets and towels and their clothes in a laundry bag. Elizabeth Cline, author of the upcoming sustainable fashion handbook The Conscious Closet calls making a change in how you do laundry your biggest change to make an environmental impact. When washing machines wash our clothes, the motion releases tiny particles of plastic from our largely synthetic clothes. That plastic ends up in the ocean. (Another great point, Elizabeth Cline makes in her book, is that we can conserve a LOT of energy by using cool water to wash our clothes. If tags call for hot water, that actually, only means that is the hottest temperature clothes can stand, NOT what is the necessary setting!)

I just purchased this guppyfriend laundry bag from Patagonia. It’s a little pricey, though, so I’ll look around for more affordable options. Check back here or on my Instagram @IsabellaDavidVintage. 

3. As a beauty blogger, I’m trying to switch my products to glass instead of a bathroom filled up with plastic bottles. All my face and body oils and serums are now in glass! I just switched my body scrub from a plastic tub to this pretty glass jar. It’s pricey, though, so I’m still on the hunt for a decent scrub in a glass jar with a nice scent. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments below! One product line that comes in glass bottles and that I really love AND is extremely affordably priced are Ordinary products. I love their hylauronic acid, and use it almost every night. It’s available for $6.80 at Sephora here.   

4. I’m also planning to contact Fresh Direct. I love ordering our basics from them every other week, and I love that they have started delivering in resubale bags! BUT… our orders are often filled with a lot of extra, pointless plastic packaging. I’d feel better about continuing to order from them if there was less plastic inside as outside our orders. You can make a difference, too: let your favorite cafe or restaurant know you prefer paper to plastic straws. I’m seeing more and more establishments in Philly opting to go for paper over plastic straws, and I can tell popular demand is making the difference! 

Are there any ways in your daily life that you can cut back on plastic? It might surprise you how simple the change can be!

Why #PlasticFreeJuly: 

Plastic is terrible for the Earth. We know that now. However, we’re still learning about the effects of plastic as it breaks down on our soil and in our oceans. We do know that, unfortunately, as plastic breaks down it releases toxic chemicals. More worryingly, you might have heard plastic breaks down into tiny bits called microplastics. Microplastics are tiny bits of any kind of plastic that pollute the environment and which are consumed by fish and end up affecting the food chain, up to and including our own consumption of fish. Read more about why plastic is bad for our Earth here

Or learn more about taking the #PlasticFreeJuly challenge this July here!
In what ways do you think you might be able to cut plastic out of your life this July? I’d love to hear about it!

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Kicking Off Summer with Thrifting & Tulips:Or a Daytrip to Bookmark for Next Spring

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Above: I’m wearing a secondhand Ulla Johnson dress from eBay with a new Brixton hat from Revolve that I’m also tempted to purchase it in purple. What do you guys think? Harper is in a Doên dress similar to this one and a thrifted Helen Kaminski boater from Greene Street Consignment in Chestnut Hill. I loved our outfits so much I ended up sketching them. Check it out below and let me know if you prefer the black and white or color! 
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I put my blog on pause this spring in order to focus on getting my family settled in our new home. Now, that that’s accomplished– beds are bought and made up, playrooms are organized, pictures are hung on the walls, and everyone’s up to date with doctor and dentist AND vet visits aiaiai– I’ve been going through pics stored on my laptop from this spring. I can’t believe I never shared this idyllic day with you guys! First of all, I want to keep it fresh in my head, because I want to be sure to make it back to Holland Ridge Farms next year in plenty of time to enjoy the tulips in full bloom. We actually ended up visiting on the very last day that the farm was open this spring! We felt very lucky to have made it all, and even though it was late in the season, it was a perfect day of chicken-watching, pony-riding, tulip-picking, and food trucks. As you can see from some of the brown rows in the images above, the tulips had started dying. It will be incredible to see the farm in its fully glory next spring!

Did you guys have a chance to visit any tulip farms this spring? Have any of you been to Holland? Tulips are my favorite flower, so I’d dearly love to go one day! (Plus, I’d love to see the canals of Amsterdam.) In New York City, tulips would suddenly turn up in little bunches in the buckets outside my neighborhood bodega, and I’d know it was officially fall. They signify cool temps and cozy times to me. 

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A quick, Easy Beauty Fix: or How to Take Off Ten Years in One Hour

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Five years ago, I had my teeth whitened for the first time and last week was the second. Both experiences were surprisingly different, which I’ll describe below. What was the same was actually what happened afterwards: the experience of being perceived as much younger than my age that immediately followed having my teeth whitened both times! The first time I had just had my daughter, and I was looking to get back into acting. (I was a professional actor and model in NYC for almost ten years.) The second time around, just last week, I was now a stay-at-home mother of two, and my teeth had grown even more crooked. (It happens over time, and I’m considering Invisalign now as well! More on that below, too!)

However, long-term solutions aside, I’ve found that whitening my teeth is a very quick, easy way to feel less self-conscious about my smile! Also, coincidentally (or not), following both experiences, strangers who knew nothing about my life, perceived me as being college age. At least that’s what two college kids who were also drying their nails at my favorite salon in Roxborough thought this Sunday until they asked to follow me on social media, opened up my Instagram, and then quickly became visibly horrified when they realized I was an old lady mother of two. So, maybe it’s anecdotal or coincidental, but it does seem to me that whitening your teeth is a quick way to take years off your age! 

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As a blogger now, I’ve had several companies approach me about teeth-whitening. I considered an in-home treatment, but ultimately I decided to work with Rittenhouse Dentists, because I really love their whole approach from start to finish. While an at-home treatment is always tempting for a busy mother of two and would have saved me a car trip, I also know I’m not that great at following directions and messing with your teeth and gums seems like something to leave to professionals. Plus, Rittenhouse Dentists promise not to be “regular dentists” but “cool dentists.” (A reference to one of my favorite feel-good movies Mean Girls!) Going to the dentist is something I usually dread, but their self-aware humor helped lighten my mood ahead of my appointment. I found myself actually looking forward to going to the dentist as  I got in my car for the long drive from Philadelphia to Bryn Mawr. (Rittenhouse Dentists also has offices in Rittenhouse Square and on City Live Avenue.)
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Here’s my honest review  of Rittenhouse Dentists that I provided in exchange for having my teeth whitened:  

Just as promised, the Rittenhous Dentist’s office in Bryn Mawr was not your “regular” dentist’s office. When I walked into what you can see (above) is a spacious, serene waiting room, I was immediately offered tea or coffee. My wait was almost too brief! Not only were the aesthetics different, but unlike my previous experience, comfort was key. Instead of staring into space for 90 minutes, while lasers were aimed at my teeth, aware of every minute of excruciating discomfort, Dr. Abdulla’s assistant offered me Netflix goggles. Something I’ve never tried before but loved. (Obviously! Who doesn’t love Netflix?) I selected Friends on the iPad before placing the goggles over my eyes, because that’s what I watched during the countdown to my son’s due date. It helped time pass just as quickly while having my teeth lasered as it did while waiting for my son to decide to be born. I don’t know if it was the Netflix and not having my mind on my teeth, but the procedure also barely hurt. The first time I had my teeth whitened I thought my teeth were very sensitive, but the second time I got through all three sessions without any pain– only some mild discomfort the third session. (Teeth are whitened in sessions of three laser treatments about fifteen minutes each, so that the treatment can be adjusted to your comfort level.) The assistant offered to turn it down to mild, but I told her I didn’t think I’d need her to! 

“Has the procedure changed in five years?” I asked afterwards. That’s how quick and much more painless the whole thing felt. They said it hadn’t, so I really think the difference was in the atmosphere. After my teeth whitening, they even provided me with a complimentary paraffin hand treatment. I felt completely refreshed and renewed! It really was more like a spa visit than a dentist’s visit just as promised. (I did experience some pain (or zingers as the assistant called them) afterwards, but I took ibuprofen that evening and felt fine by the next morning.)

What I also appreciated was Dr. Abdulla’s helpful advice about other ways to improve my smile, followed by her assistant helping me look up my insurance and providing me with a truly incredible tip, “You can usually add orthodontist work to your dental insurance for sometimes only an addtional $7. It’s worth contacting your HR to ask!”

​Yes, it is! My other dentist’s office was only focused on the bill– not on helping me pay it! And now that I’m the mother of two, even if my teeth-whitening has made me look younger than the tired mommy I currently am in reality, many more orthodontist visits are probably on the horizon for my family as well. 

You can book your own incredible spa-like dentist visit here

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10 Ways to Fresh Style; or How & Why to Prolong the Life of your Favorite Garments

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 Wearing:
                                    Top- Secondhand Frame blouse from Shop Linda’s Stuff. Same one here.
                                    Skirt- Revolve from three years ago. Similar here. Use my link for 20% off! 
                                    Backpack- Vintage Chanel backpack. Similar here.
                                    Booties- Pre-owned Frye booties. Similar here. (Size 7 & only $79!) 
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Did you guys know 2019’s Fashion Revolution Week is already coming up next week? Check out the details here.

In honor of that annual event, started in 2013 to commemorate the collapse of the Rana Plaza and the thousands of factory workers who died that tragic day, I thought I’d discuss what slow fashion is about and link to some great posts below! First and foremost, though, I’d like to emphasize that you can’t buy your way into sustainability. If sustainability is about buying anything, it’s more about buying less, and yes, choosing well/ sustainably made garments can be key, because that often means your garments are made more carefully and with higher quality fibers and will last for a greater number of wears. For example, shooting for 30 wears is the rule of thumb for slow fashion! Asking myself whether I’ll wear a garment or a pair of shoes or a bag at least 30x has stopped me from making a lot of wasteful purchases since I became aware of the need for a fashion revolution on that fateful day six years ago. 

Choosing sustainably made or secondhand garments and shoes (and even designer bags) is certainly preferable, but those options aren’t open to everybody. So it’s not about a sustainability/ virtue olympics, either– aka who is the most sustainable of them all! (Honestly, I thrift not out of virtue, but because I LOVE the hunt! And I mostly shop sustainably made designers when the budget allows, because the garments are nicer for the reasons I mentioned above! 

What sustainability is truly about is a sense of inclusivity and an awareness of the circular economy and environment that ties us all together. At the heart of slow or sustainable fashion it’s about transforming this attitude towards our garments and hopefully towards our world…

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Into this one…
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(Click on both images to take you to two great posts on some finer points of  what sustainable fashion is all about!) 
My suede skirt above is a great example of a loved garment! I bought it on sale on Revolve three years ago, and I wear it all the time. It’s such a great neutral piece, and I can dress it up or down, make it chic or boho. (Although I hate that word and cringe writing it… but it does conjure up a style image, so I’ll leave it.) I was so upset to spot a stain as you can see in the image where I’m checking out the outfit in the mirror– a shiny spot that’s probably from makeup or lotion on my hands. In the past, I might have been tempted to throw the skirt into the giveaway bag I always have going, what with two children growing like weeds. Coincidentally, that evening I happened to spot this incredible graph (see below) on Faye Delanty’s Instagram stories! Faye Delanty is the beauty and brains behind Fashion Hound in Australia and THE queen of thrift queens.

When I first became aware of sustainable fashion, I definitely fell prey to the mistaken belief that my conscious consumer choices could change the world. While I continue to think it’s better to be informed, what will change the world is consumers taking companies to task for polluting the planet, mistreating factory workers, and abusing animals, and that means systemic change needs to happen. It’s going to take a paradigm shift not simply a shift in the spending habits of individual wallets. I do think, though, that when we treat our own garments as if they’re valuable and worth being cared for instead of  as disposable goods, I hope this mindset will trickle down to positive changes in every aspect of our lives– to valuing and loving ourselves, our planet, our children’s futures… and will help grow and strengthen our resolve to see companies treat the environment and their workers with the same attitude of loving respect. 

That said, this Fashion Week 2019 I hope you will consider asking one of your favorite designers #whomademyclothes?

P.S. Using this graph, I’ve now saved my favorite skirt AND my favorite jeans by 3×1! 

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New This Week…13 Best Essays & Stories of 2018 From Around The Web

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I love anthologies. Correction: I love tea and anthologies and cuddling up with my cat and the equally comforting fact of a guaranteed good read. But I love “best of” collections in particular. I’ve only lived in one neighborhood where the library carried all the Best American anthologies on essays, travel writing, fiction, science and nature writing, etc., and I’ve been hooked since. My library in Philadelphia only stocks The 2018 Best O. Henry Stories and The 2018 Best American Mystery Stories, which seems a little arbitrary. I checked out the situation on Amazon only to learn that if I wanted to read the other anthologies it costs a hefty $10 a pop. I’d pay that for a novel, but I rarely read a whole anthology. I usually pick out the pieces that sound the most intriguing instead, which gave me an idea this week…

Usually, my “new this week” feature is devoted to sale alerts and fun, light reads and book recommendations and funny news from around the web, but this week I thought I’d devote it to what is available online from the Best American Writing Series of 2018. Not all are available on the web, sadly. But quite a few are! And for free! Here are two handfuls plus three of the ones that caught my eye!

Let me know if you particularly enjoy any of the pieces below! Or would vote another selection in! 

1. “When Your Child is a Psychopath” by Barbara Haggerty (Best Science Writing)
2. “Whatever Happened to the Russian Revolution” by Ian Frazier (Best Travel Writing) 
3. “Items Awaiting Protective Enclosure” by Téa Obreht (Best Fiction)
4. “Los Angeles”  by Emma Cline (Best Fiction)
5. “The Prairie Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld (Best Fiction)
6. “Tiny Jumping Spiders Can See the Moon” by Ed Yong (Best Science Writing)
7. “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them” by Kathryn Schulz (Best Science Writing)
8. “Hannah Arendt in New York” by Baron Wormser (Best Essay)
9. “The Art at the End of the World” by Heidi Julavits (Best Travel Writing) 
10. “The Case Against Civilization” by John Lanchester (Best Science Writing)
11. “Greetings, E.T. (Please Don’t Murder Us.)” by Steven Johnson (Best Science Writing)
12. “Prospects for Survival” by Noam Chomsky (Best Science Writing)
13. “Everything Is Far From Here” by Cristina Henríquez (Best Fiction)
P.S. Above are two books on my current TBR list, although I’m actually currently reading Conversations with Friends on my Kindle and listening to an audible version of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. Both excellent. What are you currently reading? 

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