December Comes for Fillmore Street

December 1- December 3

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December is the one month that makes itself known. All other seasons and months creep into each other, seemingly like the last week before it and then you’ll start seeing flowers bloom early, leaves turning brown and falling one leaf at a time, and maybe the temperature drops or rises a few degrees beneath fog that never goes away. December is an entity on its own, the diva that makes her hurrah and appearance at the 11th hour of the year. I read on Facebook from a pretty-font picture shared that “December you’re last, so be the best” or something to that sentiment. And doesn’t that ring true, and pretty literally, as bells high and low around this town and the world ring with merry and cheer and to signal that Christmas and Hannukah and the lights of the city and coming home for the Holidays amidst the dark days and cold is here. You just know.

Every year I know when it’s December, you just see it. And I saw it for the first time in the way it should matter, frankly. My neighborhood, the very streets within proximity to the very air I breathe in the mornings and before I go to bed at night. The neighborhood you live within is how you make your bones in this city, the place that gets you up in the morning and motivates you to taste everything San Francisco throws at you. The steep hills lined in paint-chipping Victorians leading from Van Ness and through Japantown up to Fillmore Street. I live here, and it’s only right that I feel the most alive when walking around these streets whose unique stories I help create and feel obligated to tell. It’s a good thing San Francisco is a tiny space of 7×7; it’s big enough where I easily neglect to hang around my own neighborhood in search of other exciting ventures beyond its borders like the Mission or Hayes Valley. But tonight, here I remain, and here I see the month makeover the neighborhood at the arrival of the diva I proclaimed December.

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Fillmore Street is the hub of Jazz on the West Coast, or it was where it fermented into the phenomenon that brought life and  bohemia and inclusion beyond the Mississippi. In one of these shacks Allen Ginsburg first exposed the words of his infamous Howl to the literary likes of Beatniks before they knew what the hell they were (and reveled in the namelessness), and it wasn’t called the Harlem of the West without the endless nightclubs lining the street that I now call home, and jazzed up in a different way from that of the 40’s. The music being sung tonight is a typical hum of classics being crooed from beyond the doors of the storefronts lit up in warm white, a glow familiarly cast throughout the year, but spectacular when heightened by the strung lights between the bushy trees that pave the sidewalks. Saturdays the rivaling cafes Peet’s and Starbucks cater to the crowds out and shopping and wandering up and down in and out of these stores, but as we pass Starbucks we see in its quiet facade it is not the victor of this evening. The cup of hot peppermint cocoa cupped in my hands is bubbling and perfect and from Peet’s anyhow, with its pristine corner spot and spacious seating that always spares a few open chairs no matter the crowd size. Too bad theirs doesn’t smother my cocoa in whipped cream on top.

I’m walking besides my boyfriend as we meander up Fillmore towards Pacific Street, a dark peak overlooking the shadow of the bay amidst the buildings frosted in cold and more twinkle lights. We stop at an Antiques store with its door closed to the red walls where shelves house spoons and painted jewelry boxes and fine china that make me nervous sitting close to the edge of the shelves. Outside is a bargain table, all entertaining just the same, especially with a silk top hat, a bit shabby, sitting atop some of the goods and ready for my boyfriend to try on. He smiles at me, and politely declines my offer.

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Turning around at the new Blue Bottle that’s taken over the old vacancies of Tully’s Coffee and the relocated magazine shop Juicy News, we occasionally stop and inspect the new restaurants that cross our path, examine the menus, and mutually agree that we don’t come out to eat here often. It’s mostly me going to his in the Outer Sunset. A corner restaurant is long and dim inside and there’s nothing on the gray walls, but it’s crowded, the new restaurant that I later find is The Snug– it sadly looks anything but.

The Room’s monthly midnight showing is tonight at The Clay theater, 12AM on the dot. It’s a special month though, one that sees The Room more in the spotlight as usual thanks to James Franco’s tell all new film The Disaster Artist. We tried seeing that earlier today, but $15 is still too much for a ticket in the wake of all the Christmas shopping and deposit-saving that looms in the back of our minds. If we had money, we wouldn’t be wandering here, anyhow.

Lastly, disgusted by the $50 mini trees at Mollie Stone’s, we circle back to the narrow shop of the Paper Source, dear to my heart and a monument to my past. Only three years ago I spent a bustling holiday inside, name-tagged and running around helping new faces to the tiny paper craft and stationery store where I ran workshops on gift-wrapping and card-making and quoting invitations for hopeful brides and realized that I was meant for behind the scenes, creating and not catering to. But the store looks nice as it ever did, the new seasonal kits on display to show how easy they are to make, the quirky wreath-shaped tinsel sunglasses or the calendar art pasted against the walls where the punny cards collect dust. A Fillmore Street exclusive delicacy to the store is the Peppermint Crunch Junior Mints– I wonder if they still damage the boxes to mark them out for the employees to snack on behind the counters.

Talk about magic. It’s a beautiful night in the neighborhood this first week of December and it’s not as glamorous of a stroll as Christmastime in the city is sung about. We didn’t hear silver bells, the sidewalks aren’t crowded, and there is a slight chance you can step on dog poop in this dark. All the more charming and unique to the way I start this year’s festivities, and unique, as I sit down on the steps of an apartment building I don’t even live at, to the scene before my eyes where a new home comes to life in a way that only you can see, and know, that a most wonderful time is upon you.

 

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Sister Magic: Massachusetts

November 9 – November 14

The first time I ever was on a plane was with my sister, three years ago. She was headed to New York in July for a business event and I was tagging along for the adventure, for the milestone in my life that would become the floodgate for my love of traveling.

In 2017, we found ourselves together again, driving along a narrow road as twilight turns into a cold evening in a town thousands of miles from home again. She’s following the lagging Google Maps directions from Salem’s waterfront towards an old neighborhood off of Proctor Street. At the corner of Proctor and Pope, we accidentally turn off from the directions down a winding road past a park they call Gallow’s Hill. That’s exactly what we’re looking for now, the true site of the hangings in a time in history so fixated in the imaginations of me and my sister growing up. Except now we’re driving far away from what we came to see, thousands of miles from home, together.

It all starts from a plane bound for Boston, going nowhere near Boston for more simpler, charming pleasures of the old towns along the eastern seaboard. This was a new adventure in the making– my sister hadn’t been outside California in those last 3 years since dating her ex and now since her ex was slowly coming out of the picture, new sights were set for quality time away from the hurt and struggles of work and the breakup back west. Out here, it was all just us.

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We’re not the most aligned sisters. She’s outgoing, blonde, and loves her country music. She can’t stand San Francisco. I’m too weird and awkward for her– but to her, that is exactly why we’re on this trip. One night when we’re in the hotel– the charming Inn at Crystal Cove on the shores of little Winthrop on Boston Harbor– she was on the phone with a friend.

“I love being with my sister,” she says. “Her weirdness brings me out of my comfort zone and to have the most fun.”

This whole weekend is out of our comfort zone– 20 degree evenings, frustrating traffic circles at almost every turn, Dunkin Donuts, and rustic names for towns all dated to the 17th century like Lynn, Revere, Marblehead– Salem. I personally found myself drawn to the New England life in these past few months, just as autumn approached. Something about the stiffness, the unchanged tune of these roads and towns sitting among the salty Atlantic air that once was proclaimed the New World. Something charming, that’s what I see. I try my best to plan this trip to the best of my adventurous abilities following preppy bloggers and diving deep into recommended restaurants and activities on their stomping grounds of the North East. Google mapping these cities as if I had lived here my whole life, and that for this weekend I was showing my sister around town.

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It isn’t the perfect time, losing phones in apple orchards and an overcrowded little diner when we were desperately in need of coffee. No Warriors games, but plenty of Patriots fans, flags flying high, knitted beanies snug on the heads of teens and liquor store shoppers alike. Being out of the comfort of the West Coast doesn’t mean excitement at every corner, especially when that next corner might be an accidental exit that nearly drives you into the ocean.

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But, at least my sister is here. No, at least I can be here for her. And together, we enjoy the bumps in this road trip so far from home, along the 95 North towards Amesbury bristled trees with the last of the fall leaves latched to their branches, to the coast where we avoid toll roads and beat the sunset back to our town where Parmesan truffle fries and pistachio martinis await. The memories we share will always flood back when we sip peppermint hot cocoa (“We don’t have syrup,” the young lady at Rockport Fudgery laments, “but I can add some of this peppermint creamer instead?”), listen to Joni Mitchell, and find ourselves in the company of police officers– my sister particularly fond of officers since she exchanged numbers with one. But the best reminders will be Salem, for that was where we both found amusement and true magic in the history of the town, the hanging dried herbs for Wiccan altars and the various stones we plucked from baskets to add to her much-sought Love elixir that we read in the mini red velvet spellbook we were buying. Discussing the formula– stones of different values and energies soaking in drinking water for 7 hours– was the main course of lunch at the Witch’s Brew Cafe. The stones, forever stored away neatly in the cotton satchel embroidered with pretty pink and purple flowers, those we’ll save for when she needs them the most.

Salem is where I conclude this tale of New England, turning back on that dark road past Gallows Hill Park to where the directions tell us that up ahead on Pope Street, we will find Proctor’s Ledge. I know it’s dark out now, and there won’t be much to see, but to be so close to where much of this town’s legacy is rooted will be a wonderful way to pay our respects before we’re called home. Pope and Proctor come up, and onward we drive, 300 feet, 100 feet, 50 feet–

“Was that it?” My sister asks. She’s looking back at the dark hilly patch nestled between big new homes before coming back up onto the corner Walgreens. “That was,” I tell her, realizing the car is too far gone to reverse or make a U-turn or to do anything to redeem and savor those few seconds of seeing the Ledge. Well, it was a shot we took, albeit a shot in the dark.

We’re still at the red light near the Walgreens. “Do you want me to go back?” My sister asks me. I shake my head, she’s already been complaining about her dry eyes and barely seeing the road this late. Still, she turns left and left again back onto Proctor Street, going back through the neighborhood to give me one last, lingering look.

She slows down this time. Still dark, but in the dimness I can make out the slabs of cement where in the daylight you can see the names of the victims from 1692, a single tree at the center of this newly-minted monument to honor them in unison. My view wasn’t much better from the first time. My sister asks if I want to go back and see it again.

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We’ve made it this far, twice now, but that’s all I needed from this last night, a memory that now holds more magic than anything we’ve seen in this Old World. And I’ll only have to look back on a memory, the kind of magic that can never be lost.

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Weekly Wonders: October 30

Weekly Wonders October 30

In less than four days I’ll be heading out on a much-needed sister adventure to Massachusetts! I’m most excited about seeing the historic town of Marblehead, right on the Atlantic. We plan on doing a day of sightseeing in Boston, but my sister and I are over any city sights having been in San Francisco for so long, and are in the mood for a more magical little escape– yes, especially to Salem!

IT’S HERE! The Fall/Winter issue of Marjorie Magazine is available now for your vintage/nostalgic reading pleasure. Our second issue is 48 pages of beautiful photos, featured interviews with Monalogue and Caffe Bianco, a travel guide for Bruges, Belgium, more cocktail recipes by Jennifer Richmond, and a breath-taking cover feature by Jacki Geary Art. It’s ready to be yours now for just $10 at Marjorie Mercantile!

My birthday was just this past Saturday, and boy, was it a happy little celebration, truly. The Bob Ross-themed party in the evening entailed dancing to remixed autotuned videos of Ross and a big canvas on which every party guest added their own fun work of art! Painting soon to be posted; I’m so grateful for the fun friends and incredible family that always make my birthdays so memorable.

Saltwater taffy, I realized, is my favorite candy. Around Halloween the cravings especially bump up. Peppermint and blueberry are definite faves.

This year’s costume was a silly but special one! One of my boyfriend’s favorite movies is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and so we decided on being Steve Zissou and the Jaguar Shark. I chose last year’s costumes of being Rick and Negan from The Walking Dead– so this year, not too shabby for his picking. As my boyfriend’s costume was fairly easy to buy and assemble, mine involved a bit more creative approach to making it work, as nowhere sells onesies or costumes for the mythical sea creature. So,  I took a leopard dress (an XXL tank from Target), and cut out/hand-painted a shark fin wth leopard splotches, which, I found, are so easy to draw!

Tea. TEA. I’m starting to crave tea more than coffee– and for my birthday, come Ceylon. I got to enjoy a wonderful birthday tea brunch with my best friend at SIP Tea Room in the Inner Sunset, right across from Golden Gate Park. It’s new, sleek, and encompasses all the feels of an elegant, modern tea room with comforts like mismatched antique china and delicate tiers of petit-fours and traditional sandwiches. Some jokes made: Oooh look at that! High(phy) tea, curds and clots, and getting the tea a Bible because it was so loose.

After finishing the second season of Stranger Things I was a bit indifferent about the direction it went (meh with the new characters like Billy and definitely Max, Bob was Ok as sweet and funny as he was and much-needed to give Joyce some happiness [too much spoilers?]), but looking back now, it was just as good as the first. The different storylines as some characters joined unexpectedly together and others reunited were well done and built up to a beautiful ending– I’m really am glad they ended with the Snow Ball (and that it was not Mike and Eleven’s first meeting since the season 1 finale as the Duffer Brothers originally intended).

Lastly, the wonderful thing about my birthdays now is that I have my boyfriend by my side to celebrate with. He’s given me so much inspiration and happiness and laugher in this past year that really showed me the kind of love everyone should have. I truly love this pearl and southern magnolia necklace he generously gave to me this year for my 26, a true unique handmade gem from Morning Heirloom!

A Twilight of Sorts

October 9 – October 15

It was Sunday around 11 when sleep was ready to take over my stiff body lying down on the couch when I smelled the smoke. I swore I was not crazy; I woke my sister up to make sure she could smell it too. It seemed like it was just above my head, maybe only in my head– but it grew and sweltered in our little apartment, no heat but just the thickness of a smoke nearby, like a wire spark. I opened the fire escape but the alley was dark. I looked out onto the street, nothing. Nothing, but something was up.

And then the ashes fell in the morning. A sheath of crusted gray covered the car and on the tops of tables outside of cafes on Chestnut Street. We wouldn’t be sitting outside in this stinging air except we had Bentley. A week later, whether it was the smoke or just because of his daycare, he would get sick, congested, a bad cough.

All through work I stayed in. I never noticed how cool and sharp the air 41 stories high in this building was. Stepping outside meant your hair would smell like the pack of Camels you didn’t smoke. It meant deeper breaths stifled by the quickly-ascending sick that couldn’t be shrugged off anywhere there was open space. A pink, hellish haze blanketed the skyline, the Golden Gate a clouded patch of whiteness, nothing.

Friday the 13th seemed fitting to fall right in the middle of this nightmare. At least in the city, it didn’t feel like one, but the devastation, the fear– it loomed and made everyone uncomfortable even if cities away from the true hell that was happening north. But it was on the 13th that something spectacular happened. The evenings seemed not darker, but cooler. Smoky, but a mist where pixies waited in the shadows. I was reunited with old friends and they with my new ones, and new friends uniting me with their olds. Walking around those nights as the fires burned bright and deadly far off, but here in this city it was dark and shadows of the night outlined lonely houses and twinkle lights edging the windows of second-floor apartment windows and living rooms. I remember only feeling good on those nights, not sick– not panicked. But I still felt strange. How was it these seemingly magical moments were on the worst of times for this place I called home? To the North, it was all nothing. Nothing was left. Everything was burning.

It is only I realize that, in the wake of these fires dying now, that feeling of hope. Something always magical lingering. All that remains are stories of devastation but just as many stories of love, hope, miracles. Odin and his goats, the wedding rings rising from ashes, the half-charred photographs that still possess those never-forgotten memories of the humans who may have lost everything, except that happiness, those moments. Though I cannot understand the total loss and devastation of what happened beyond the dark, the dark is only fleeting now. In the morning, it will be a different sort of light, the kind that warms without burning, the new day and moving forward and not without lifting up our neighbors in need.

You can find more information on assisting/donating to the Fire Relief for Northern California here

Row Boat for Sunday: Summer Vignettes

It’s a luxury that I’m used to be completely secluded with my loved ones. It was last with faces from college when our boat was Rihannon, and now in a nameless rower we’re still just the two of us, untouched and separated from the beauty of these old trees and turtles below that find us circling and troubling these shining waters where as we try to stay afloat, we’re still falling in deep for each other.

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Weekly Wonders: October 16th

Weekly Wonders Oct. 9 (3)

Perry Ellis boots, these are my absolute favorite for fall weather. I stumbled upon them at the Vintage Thrift West store in Greenwich when I was in New York last December. I tried them on, left the store, and not two blocks away I asked my friend if we could turn back. No regrets! And were only $24. You must check out the pretty embroidering on the toes, too.

Julia Engel of Gal Meets Glam just came out with a gorgeous rug in a collaboration with Lulu & Georgia! She’s one of my favorite bloggers, being a fellow California gal with a love for the south and florals, plus her and her husband (and her photographer) Tom are just adorable. The Garden Party Rug is the first thing I want to add to my apartment when I get around to redecorating next year.

I came across Pascal Campion’s artwork this past month simply scrolling through Facebook. The first thing I fell in love with was his style; the composition of light and contrasting simpler, neutral warm colors make his work feel so welcoming. And then the subjects, mostly of him and his wife and their three children. They live a happy life, family pillow fights, days at the beach– but the intimate paintings of Pascal and his wife alone, when they’re having coffee together in the kitchen or talking to themselves on a fire escape at a party or embracing in bed in the early morning resonates so much with me. Looking at those particular works, I don’t see the artist his wife– I feel like I can only see me, and my own love.

Tea is always the perfect way to start and end the day. I’ve been working from home a lot this week, and I couldn’t go get coffee– so it’s nice to get back onto tea for a bit! And best served in a pretty little mug.

My favorite spot in Golden Gate Park is the Shakespeare Garden. Despite the heavy smoke from the fires up north, I still found myself out in the sunshine and thick haze to admire its glory. It’s peaceful, rather hidden, and contains all the flora mentioned in Shakespeare’s works. Also, it’s the only place in San Francisco where I can soak in the beauty of my favorite plant, Spanish Moss, draping the dark trees overhead. It’s a lovely sight, as anywhere there is Spanish Moss, as far as I’m concerned, is Heaven.

While walking about Golden Gate Park, my friend (who is back from living in Portland!) and I stumbled upon John Steven Morgan sitting at an upright piano and playing this own breathtaking compositions aloud for all to hear and fall in love with. I sure did. I particularly am drawn to his song, “Robots.”

I finally did it. After years of wondering and hearing the buzz surrounding last year’s revival and constantly being told it’s a show I would love, I am finally getting into the Gilmore Girls! OMG! It truly is the show for me. Some of the scenes and plot lines can get a bit fantastical, but the heart and soul of the story is perfect. The characters, their dynamics with each other, the magical setting of Stars Hollow, all belissimo! This is the kind of story I aspire to writing down the road.

When in doubt, Fairy Lights. It’s actually the best way to get your home or work desk to feel festive (I’ve strung it around the desktop screen) for all seasons– summer, fall, and of course, Christmas. Little effort, everlasting impact.

 

Magic Moment

October 4 – October 8

And just like that, the magic is upon us.

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October magic. It’s what they used to say about your baseball team when they made it into the playoffs, it’s how you feel when you see your Halloween costume on for the first time. Something wonderful this way comes, and when they say the Most Wonderful Time of the Year on other days– well, I can’t help but think Hallmark is wrong.

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In California, it’s a different kind of magic. The weather up along the coast is warmer for only so long and the Pacific looks bluer, when you make your way out to it. The way we did, it was a backroad, a bypass I never knew existed having only gone up and down the 1 so many times. But there’s dry hills there, a lake we pass over, dark trees scattered at the bases of this new landscape that are usually dusted by the Marine layer. It was a lucky day to be experiencing this magic, discovering a new road and just like that it brought you back to the past. The last time I was in Half Moon Bay was five years ago. I wore a funny outfit with tights worn under shorts and long leather boots with a white fleece scarf– in the spring. We were exploring the town, family and I, and my sister’s ex boyfriend who wasn’t really supposed to end up an ex. Everything was green and the houses around the Main Street seemed beautifully aged, not old. Today things seemed old, a bit run-down, but resigned. Happy. They live the good life out here on the water, far enough from the city yet close enough to be the perfect day getaway for anyone looking for a bit of that magic.

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Scenes of Half Moon Bay, 2012.
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By the sea

And when you come here, to the waterfront, the Brewery where dogs lounge below in the shades of the tables, kicking up the dirt at the many pumpkin patches lining that backroad in between the cracks of the foothills smothered in sunshine, you better not be alone. Have a dog, it’s the best. Have a sister, she’s truly your best friend. And have a partner, a lover, the love of your life so that when you experience days about on small adventures like this, you can actually stare into each other’s eyes and feel blessed that though one day, there will be other days to follow. A small party to take in the day, to sit around in a car while music from high school is blasted driving along the same waves where the Mavericks happen. Too many people make you feel alone, makes the moment forgettable. Too many people might make you forget that you’re wanted.

Half Moon Bay is a little known treasure to those within the Bay Area. And we all know the best time to see it is now, on a sunny day in October when the small town is glowing, explaining its most popular even the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. It’s a pasture of heaven, worth the drive, a true breath of fresh air for anyone longing to feel those true affects of change during the fall. Change for the best, in this case, as you see the town get comfortable in its own skin beneath the sun.

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There is no reddening foliage from the few trees, no log cabins, no crisp cool air or button-up plaid. This is fall in California. Almost perfect, a bit off, never-changing. It stays the same– and it only matters if, as the visitor, it has changed you.

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Caen’s Truth: Summer Vignettes

June 2017

The fog might thin and the heat may swelter, but then this city becomes a gem that’s fallen out of a dream and into the hands of women in rompers and boys who wander parks wth coconuts filled with rum and falling shades. I sat there by the Phoenix poolside and on the slopes of Dolores waiting any minute to die and truly find that Heaven was nice, but it wasn’t San Francisco.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Wonders: October 9th

Weekly Wonders Oct. 9 (4)

Enamel Fall Candles in Kitchen Spice (mint) and Pumpkin Spice (orange), $5 each at Target. The apartment is just perfect for fall now, paired with twinkle lights and a few pumpkins. Masks the smell of dog accidents, too.

Stevie Nicks, particularly her single “If You Ever Believe.” Been watching one of my favorite Halloween favorites, Practical Magic. The perfect mood and aesthetic for a magical month.

I have my eyes set on a monogramed vest at Marley Lilly. I’ll be heading out east for a sister weekend trip to Rockport and Salem, Massachusetts, and if there’s not an ounce of prep in my step, the excursion will feel off. For not having anything personalized, I gotta feel fancy.

Confession: I scaled myself over the summer and found to my dismay I’m twenty pounds heavier than what my state ID says. I started walking to work, I hydrated better, and am currently attempting intermittent fasting. Besides morning coffee or tea, I hydrate the rest of the day with just Hint water since my company stocks the kitchen to the heavens with it. Blackberry is the best, the sweetest and most subtle. Forget La Croix, techies– reach for the Hint bottles!

My birthday is less than a month away. To save on Massachusetts, there will be no big celebration at home other than a delightful small tea party for which I plan to wear this flower crown. Get it here on Wish.

Somehow I rediscovered Tuck Everlasting. The children’s novel by the late Natalie Babbit remains as fascinating and magical now as when I first read it in 6th grade. A simple adventure with such a deep and tragic theme about life and immortality that’s really relatable– and still a better love story than the eerily familiar Twilight saga. It’s set in the late summer but the lovely descriptions of the woods and time period make for a relaxing and charming fall read.

The search for the perfect fall lipstick has ended. Nyx Lip Creme in Berlin.