Clean Eating: A Weekly Meal Plan

Clean Eating: A Weekly Meal Plan

As the world opens back up, I feel like I have been traveling, eating and drinking alcohol so much more than I have for the past 14 months. Although it has been great to see friends and family again and get back to the things we used to do, the recent over-indulgences have left me feeling bloated, tired and achey. To reset myself, I decided to eliminate alcohol, coffee, gluten and processed foods for one week.

One of my all time favorite things in life is a piece of peanut butter toast in the morning. I love sourdough bread, but I decided to swap gluten for protein this week so for breakfast, I alternated between my favorite yogurt bowl: Fage O% Milk Fat yogurt, Kind Granola, cinnamon and local honey and eggs with freshly made salsa.

For lunch I mixed it up by making a smoothie or ordering from Sweet Green or Chipotle and I decided to get the most creative with my dinners for the week. I didn’t realize it, but Will and I normally eat quite a bit of gluten so it was a bit of a challenge to eliminate that for a week of meals. Since I never know what our weekends will bring, I only plan meals Monday through Thursday night, here’s a look at what I made for the week!

The Defined Dish Mushroom Lettuce Cups

Monday Dinner: The Defined Dish Mushroom Lettuce Cups. Will and I absolutely LOVED this recipe. It was so easy to cook (and clean up) and it was surprising filling. I had three and I lost count of how many Will had..maybe seven? I’d highly recommend these if you’re wanting to eat clean or eliminate meat and fish.

Build Your Own Taco Salad Night

Tuesday Dinner: Taco Salad Night! I think this was my favorite meal of the week. For our taco salad, I used chopped romaine lettuce, taco meat (2 lbs. ground beef cooked with half of a diced white onion, salt, pepper, 1 tbsp. chili powder, 1tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. oregano), shredded cheese and black olives. Instead of using salad dressing which can be highly processed, I got a freshly made salsa from Central Market and topped the salad with my homemade guacamole (3 avocados, half of a diced white onion, 1 diced jalapeño, 1 tbsp. Maldon salt, 1/2 of a lime squeezed and topped with chopped cilantro.)

We also loved this meal and I served it as a “build your own taco salad” so I got to make mine exactly how I wanted and Will got to do the same for his. Super easy to make, filling and very healthy.

The Defined Dish’s Mongolian Chicken

Wednesday Dinner: The Defined Dish’s Mongolian Chicken with a carrot ginger spring salad. I’ve always loved Mongolian Beef, but had never heard about Mongolian Chicken until I saw it from the Defined Dish. As with all of Alex’s meals, it was amazing and SO easy to clean up…another one of her one pot wonders.

Because Will and I normally have some sort of a starch with our meals, I just made more chicken than I normally would and more salad to make sure we were both full and it worked out perfectly.

Broccoli with Grilled Chicken and homemade Alfredo sauce

Thursday Dinner: Broccoli with grilled chicken and homemade Alfredo sauce. By Thursday, I was ready for some comfort food so rather than making my favorite fettuccine Alfredo, I swapped the noodles for broccoli. I never use store-bought Alfredo sauce and I’m not saying my homemade sauce is light, but it is not heavily processed.

To make the sauce, heat 1/2 stick of butter in a sauté pan over low heat and add in 1 cup of heavy whipping cream–let simmer for five minutes. Slowly whisk in 1 and 1/2 cups of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Finally add in 2 tbsp. chopped Italian Parsley, 2 cloves of chopped garlic and salt and pepper to taste.

By the end of the week, I felt refreshed, my skin looked clear and dewey and I lost three pounds. How have you stayed healthy as life gets back to normal? Leave me a comment and let me know!



Five Minute Makeup Routine

Five Minute Makeup Routine

Makeup has always been a hassle for me–something I hate having to put on, but also necessary to keep me looking somewhat put together. When I swapped my foundation for tinted sunscreen a few years ago, I felt like I could actually enjoy my day while wearing “makeup.” I add a few more elements to my five-minute makeup routine, check it out below!

Before I apply my makeup, I do my full skincare routine. Once that is all done, I start by applying the tinted sunscreen on my face and neck…I just use my hands to apply it. Next, I put on under eye concealer. I have been using the Giorgio Armani Power Fabric Concealer in Shade 2. I cannot say enough good things about this concealer. I have dark circles and this concealer really makes them disappear. I apply the concealer using the wand it comes with and then I blend it using a Blending Sponge.

Next, I apply the bronzer. I love the Hoola Benefit Bronzer because it acts as a bronzer and contouring kit all in one. I use the brush the bronzer comes with to bronze and contour my face. Then, I apply another layer of concealer and finally, I add the Blush. I really love the blushes by Bobbi Brown because they don’t irritate my skin and I think they come in the most beautiful colors. To blend all of the makeup I use the large Luxie brush and I just love it.

I really only wear mascara for holidays and major events (even during a non-pandemic year) so I didn’t include it in this routine. From beginning to end, it should take you only five minutes to apply. It will leave you looking fresh-faced and dewy for the whole day!



Weekly Meal Planning

Weekly Meal Planning

Meal planning–which is different than meal prepping, has changed my life completely and has made it better both physically and financially. Rather than cooking all of my meals for the week on Sunday and then putting them into containers to eat throughout the week, I just plan what I’m going to make throughout the week and make a concise grocery list. By being organized about what I’m going to eat and buy, I rarely waste food and save a lot of money.

Every Sunday I meal plan for our family. I start by pulling out my cookbooks to get inspiration for the meals I will cook during the week, then I take a look at what I already have in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer and finally, I make my list. I usually only plan meals Monday-Thursday because by the end of the week I’m tired and want to go out for dinner or we might have plans.

Once I’ve decided on what I’ll be cooking for the week, I make my list and try to organize it by where each item is located in the store. For example, I put all vegetables together, all meats and fish together, etc. By doing this, I can clearly see what I need from each area so I don’t end up at the register and realize I have forgotten the zucchini I need for my meal one night.

Make your list and check it twice! My sister-in-law got me these grocery notecards from Katie & Co. in Houston and I am so in love with them!

I started getting passionate about meal planning when I moved to Houston seven years ago. First and foremost, I had gained 15 lbs. from eating out too much and I was also looking to save money because I pretty much made no money at my first job in Houston, Neiman Marcus. Through meal planning, I actually learned to cook pretty well and it has become a hobby and passion of mine. Meal planning really saved us during the first months of the pandemic because I was able to get creative with what food we did have and make really delicious meals.

I live for the produce section at Central Market…my happy place.

I think it’s essential to have a plan when you go to the store. I don’t have a lot of free time so I don’t want to have to go to the store multiple times a week. By making a well-thought out list, you can save yourself a ton of time and money by not buying things you don’t need or forgetting things you really do need.

Voila! All done with grocery shopping for the week!

The best part of meal planning is that once you’re done with the shopping, all of your hard work is over for the week (in terms of food.) There’s no last-minute stress about what you’re going to make or do for the family because that’s all done…you just have to cook it!

Happy cooking, friends! I hope you all have a happy and healthy week ahead of you!



De-stressing During a Pandemic

De-stressing During a Pandemic

De-stressing is the last thing I thought I’d be doing over the past year, but it turns out that I have been. Throughout the past year, I’ve lived through a pandemic, moved to a new city and left my job…according to most statistics, I should be a mess, but according to my doctors, I’m in the best health of my life.

In January of 2020, my OBGYN told me that if I didn’t get my stress under control, I would never be able to get pregnant. I didn’t realize how stressed I was and that I was running myself ragged for no reason until the pandemic hit. What was the point of working out in the morning, working all day, working out again in the evening and then going home to cook a meal? I used to try to squeeze three days into one and I don’t think that’s something to be proud of.

My baby Charlie has brought me so much joy this year.

Since January 2020, my life has done a 180. It has taken me a while to understand what has happened to me over the past year and at times I have felt like a total failure, but I’m beginning to realize that I’m exactly where I need to be doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

The other day I had my six-month dental appointment and they had to take my blood pressure twice because it was shockingly low. For as long as I can remember, my blood pressure has been around 120/80–which is teetering on pre-hypertension, but this week, it was 102/66. After my appointment, I couldn’t help but reflect on what has changed in my life to get me in such a relaxed state.

What I’ve Changed:

  • Got a puppy
  • Stopped working a 9-5 job
  • Cut back on drinking
  • Let go of toxic friendships
  • Started Meditating

There are endless studies that describe the benefits of having a dog, but it is really crazy to think about the positive impact Charlie has made on my life. Not only do I have a constant companion, but because Charlie is still a puppy, he has A LOT of energy so we are always outside and walking, which has been great for me. His endless cuddles and kisses are also the best!

As far as working goes, I never planned to quit my job last year. Our move to Austin was not my decision and I didn’t want to leave my job, but looking back it was so necessary. I had hit a wall in terms of growth and I don’t think I realized just how stressful and upsetting that was for me. I was trying to do so many things at once that it is amazing to me I didn’t go crazy. Driving all around Houston to get to work, to get to the gym, to get to the grocery store, to attend every event I was invited to…It was honestly insane. Although I miss my life in Houston at times, I think I’m a much better person today than I was a year ago.

In June of 2020 I decided to reevaluate my drinking. Like most people during lockdown last year, I started drinking more than I should have. I don’t know if other people experienced this, but the more I drank, the more upset I would get about my situation and my husband and I began fighting a lot. I realized that drinking was at the root of most of our arguments so I decided to cut it out for a while. I still drink now, just very moderately and definitely don’t when I’m already in a bad mood.

Letting go of toxic friendships is probably one of the best changes you can make in your life. I’ve let go of several friendships in my lifetime, but last year I let go of one that had been hugely impactful on me. For years, people around me questioned why I was friends with this person, but I never saw what they saw. At first it was hard to not have this person in my life who had been there for so long, but in time, I realized that my life was so much less complicated without them in it. My dad always said that you become the five people who you are around the most, so if you have someone in your life who you think is toxic…LET THEM GO. Don’t wait, don’t give them a second chance. Move on and be around good people who bring positivity into your life.

Meditation has brought so much peace to my life. I never really thought about trying it, but in February I was having trouble sleeping so I decided to download the BetterMe: Meditation and Sleep app and give it a shot. This app has completely changed my sleeping habits and now I can fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.

Obviously I haven’t been able to see my friends as much as I would have liked to over the past year because of the pandemic, but when I do see them, most of them remark on how much I’ve changed this year. From saying that I seem more clear-headed and lighter to even glowing and happier, I have to agree with them that I am in a much better place.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you’re running on a short fuse, I encourage you to look around at your life and see what you can eliminate or change to make yourself happier and healthier.



Spring Skincare Essentials

Spring Skincare Essentials

Skincare is an integral part of my life and every season, I change up my routine a bit to keep up with the changing weather. I recently celebrated my 31st birthday and am proud to say I’ve never had botox or fillers. I rarely wear makeup and I think the combination of staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen and having a *strict* skincare routine has made my youthful glow stick around.

What I use:

CE Ferulic by SkinCeuticals, Replenishing Face Wash by SkinCeuticals, PMD Facial Brush, Eye Authority Eye Cream by Hydropeptide, Earl Grey and Cucumber Perfume by Jo Malone, Tinted Sunscreen, Glycolic 10 Overnight by SkinCeuticals, Eye Masks by Hydropeptide

I recently switched to the PMD brush from the Clarisonic I had been using for EIGHT years! I was so scared to make the change because I didn’t want to break out from using a new brush, but when Clarisonic went out of business, I could no longer buy new brush heads so I had I had to switch. And… I am so happy I finally did!! I LOVE the PMD brush for many reasons–financially, it makes a lot more sense than the Clarisonic brush because it is only $69 (currently on sale!) and I will never have to buy new brush heads. I have also seen a huge improvement in my skin. The brush has four speed settings–two that are for cleansing and two that are for massaging–I use the latter two to apply my serums and moisturizers.

During the pandemic, I began only washing my face in the evenings because I never really left my house during the day. In the morning I usually apply the Eye Authority Eye Cream by Hydropeptide and Tinted Sunscreen. When I wash my face at night, I begin by applying astringent all over to pick up all of the dirt that has built up from the day. Once I’ve done that, I rinse with water and begin cleansing my face using the PMD Facial Brush with the Replenishing Face Wash by SkinCeuticals. Unlike the Clarisonic, the PMD brush does not have a set timer so you can use it for as long or as little as you’d like. I do it for about a minute and once the soap has lathered, leave it on your face for a bit to soak in all of the nutrients.

By leaving your cleanser on for a few minutes like you would a mask, your skin has time to soak up all of the nutrients.

I have been using the Replenishing Face Wash by SkinCeuticals since January and am SO happy with it! It leaves my skin feeling silky smooth and cleans really well. Once you cleanse your face, rinse the soap off with cool water and apply toner. After that, I put a drop of the CE Ferulic by SkinCeuticals serum on the PMD Facial Brush and set it to the third setting which is like a little massage. I apply this all over my face and neck and then every other night, I put a drop of the Glycolic 10 Overnight by SkinCeuticals. To finish, I use the Eye Authority Eye Cream by Hydropeptide.

And Voila! Beautifully fresh skin!

I hope you all have a great night and remember to wash your faces!



Hitting Reset for 2021

Hitting Reset for 2021

Happy New Year, friends! Although not much has changed this week from what happened in 2020, I am excited for the fresh start that a new year brings. Rather than lumping unrealistic expectations on myself and calling them “resolutions,” I have decided to do a modest reset as I begin the new year.

In many ways, I still can’t believe 2020 is over. It feels like it was the longest year of my life and the shortest at the same time. At the beginning of last year I never would have predicted what was to come. After years of working toward my goal of getting an MBA, I had finally started my program and I really thought I had life figured out. I had a great job, was getting my MBA part-time, had amazing friends, a wonderful husband and a supportive family.

By March my world had completely flipped…my husband and I moved to Austin for his job and as we were unpacking the boxes in our new home, the coronavirus pandemic shut down the world as we knew it. Without a job and confined to my home for quarantine, I decided to start this blog.

The Austin Motel in April 2020.

While 2020 was an incredible year in so many ways, it was also pretty tough. Because of the mental toll moving, leaving my job and friends took on me, I fell into some bad habits that I would like to break in 2021. To start 2021 off differently than 2020, I decided to give my life a metaphorical and literal reset. For the first two weeks of the year, I’m focusing on not drinking, not getting a spray tan, eating well and walking every day. I’m also de-cluttering my life by cleaning out closets and my digital spaces.

I’m not one to throw definitive blanket statements on anything so I don’t want to say that I’m done drinking forever, but throughout this past year I’ve realized I really don’t like who I am or how I feel when I am drinking so for now, I’m taking it out of my life. That might be two weeks, two months or indefinitely…I’m not sure.

It’s very Marie Kondo, but I’m also cleansing phone contacts, unfollowing people who do not bring me joy and deleting apps I don’t use to create a more positive mental space for 2021.

I am hopeful that by making these small changes I will become a better version of myself in 2021 and that the world can become a better place too. There has been a lot of hurt and hardship over the past year, but I really believe that our darkest moments lead us to brighter days than we ever could have imagined.

What are your hopes and goals for 2021?!



Bluemercury Semi-Annual Sale!

Bluemercury Semi-Annual Sale!

If you thought Black Friday and Cyber Monday were fun, then prepare yourselves for the Bluemercury Semi-Annual sale! Bluemercury is my favorite destination for skin care because they carry all of the best brands and for the next few days you can get SkinCeuticals, Jo Malone and more for up to 20 percent off!!

I normally shop this sale with my work bestie, but this year, sadly I will be shopping alone. When I lived in Houston, the Rice Village Bluemercury was about a 10 minute drive from our offices in the medical center and we were known to spend our lunches there. Since I haven’t been to a Bluemercury since the pandemic hit, I’m definitely in need of a re-stock and this sale couldn’t come at a better time! Here’s what I’ll be buying…

Skin Ceuticals CE Ferulic, Skin Ceuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF, Skin Ceuticals Phloretin CF, Skin Ceuticals Simply Clean Cleanser,
Skin Ceuticals Discoloration Defense, Skin Ceuticals Metacell Renewal B3, Skin Ceuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight, Skin Ceuticals Equalizing Toner,
Skin Ceuticals Clarifying Clay Mask, Beauty Blender Cleanser, Beauty Blender, Caudalie Beauty Elixir, DryBar Prep Rally Spray,
Jo Malone Earl Grey and Cucumber Perfume, Jo Malone Orange Bitters Candle, DryBar Buttercup Blow Dryer, Kiehl’s Crème de Corps, Kiehl’s Blue Astringent

As you can see, my favorite skin care brand is SkinCeuticals. I started using SkinCeuticals about five years ago and it has totally transformed my skin. It is a bit of a splurge if you’ve been using over-the-counter products, but it is totally worth it. I’d recommend starting out with the CE Ferulic because it works for most skin types and it will really make your skin glow. I personally use all of the products I’ve listed on this page and will share a video on Instagram about how I use each item.

In addition to the Skinceuticals I’ll be stocking up on, I will also be loading up on my Kiehl’s body lotion…I use this twice a day all over my body and could not live without it. I also love the Kiehl’s Blue Astringent. My signature scent is the Jo Malone Earl Grey and Cucumber and am so happy I will be able to get it on sale. If you’re not familiar with this scent, it is so light and effervescent and makes you smell like you just left the spa.

Lafco Chamomile Lavender Candle, Lafco White Grapefruit Candle, Nars Blush, Nars Afterglow Lip Balm, Nars Eyeshadow, Supergoop! Play Everyday Sunscreen,
Tom Ford Foundation, Tom Ford Soleil Blanc Body Spray, Tom Ford Illuminating Primer

With the holidays coming up, you might want to take this opportunity to stock up on candles as gifts for your friends, because who doesn’t love a candle?! My favorite candles are from Lafco. I think the scents are beautiful, they burn well and I love the fun names they give each candle like Cabana and Penthouse.

I hardly ever wear makeup so I love buying it on sale when I have to. I love NARS for blush, eyeshadow and absolutely love the afterglow lip balm. For primer and foundation, my go-to is Tom Ford. I’ve been wearing it for years and makes me look airbrushed when I wear it.

Whether you’re stocking up on beauty essentials for yourself or buying gifts for friends and family, this sale is the best place you can spend your money this month! I usually stock up on my beauty favorites in December during this sale and again in June when they have their other sale so I don’t have to buy these items full price.

Happy shopping!!



Presidential Debate Serves as a Reminder to Register to Vote

Presidential Debate Serves as a Reminder to Register to Vote

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will take the stage tonight for the first presidential debate of 2020. While this debate will give voters more of a glimpse into the two candidates, it also serves as a reminder to register to vote. In Texas, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, October 5th. If you have moved, switched political parties, changed your name or haven’t voted in the past four years, you will need to register or re-register to vote.

If you’re not sure if you are registered, you can check your registration status here and also learn more information about polling locations, mail-in ballots and more. If you’re in Texas, is a great resource to use for local voting information. According to the Houston Chronicle, 16.6 million Texans have registered to vote so far, an uptick of 1.5 millions voters since the last presidential election.

Graphic from the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

While I don’t intend to share my political beliefs on this blog, I don’t consider the act of voting as political. It has been said time and time again by both parties, that this election, no matter who wins, is going to change the future of our country and it is our civic duty and privilege to vote. Because voting is a privilege that many people around the world do not have, I think it is important to take this responsibility seriously and to inform yourself before the election.

When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to take speech and debate classes taught by a former speech writer for one of the presidents of the United States. Of course, we all wanted to know if she was a republican or democrat and who she worked for, but she wouldn’t tell us. On the first day of class she told us that she would never tell us which party she voted for, but that if you listened to what she said, you would know which party she aligned with. Rather than blindly following a party, I think we should all be able to clearly articulate why we are voting for a person based on their beliefs, agenda and policies. Until you are able to do that, you really aren’t prepared to vote.

To learn more about both candidates, tune into tonight to watch the first of three presidential debates. Tonight’s debate, held in Cleveland, will be the first debate where the presidential candidates will not shake hands because of coronavirus protocol and will give candidates a chance to speak about how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled, the economy and possibly the filling of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court seat.

Are you watching the debate tonight? Leave me a comment and let me know!



Gyms Reopen as COVID Continues

Gyms Reopen as COVID Continues

Gyms around the country have begun to reopen as coronavirus cases continue to rise. My gym, Equinox Austin reopened on June 1st and although I was skeptical about going back at first, I have to say that I feel incredibly safe when I am there.

Before the pandemic, I would work out four to five times a week and not having the option to go to the gym during lockdown was challenging for me. The classes at Equinox are taught by some of the most talented and inspiring people who not only motivate you to take your workout to another level, but they also make you leave feeling better mentally and physically.

The entrance of Equinox Austin.

I have been a member at Equinox since 2015 and I have always been impressed with their level of cleanliness and small class sizes, but now in the time of COVID, they have taken their standards to another level. In May, ahead of the gym’s post-lockdown re-opening, I had to read and sign what seemed like dozens of pages of new guidelines. Before each visit I make now, I have to read and sign a shortened health declaration before I am allowed inside.

Explanation of the Equinox Health Declaration.

The new rules at Equinox require members to make appointments to visit the gym–whether you’re going for a group fitness class, a personal training session or just to use an elliptical, you must schedule your visit in advance. Once in the gym, members and staff are required to wear face masks until they are working out. A member of the Equinox staff also checks everyone’s temperature at the door…anyone with over a 100 degree temperature will not be allowed in the gym.

All guests entering the gym are stopped at the door to get their temperature checked. Anyone with over 100 degrees will not be admitted.

Since going back to the gym, I have only attended group fitness classes and I have loved how much Equinox is respecting spacing, safety and cleanliness. In rooms that can fit up to 40, classes have been limited to under 15 people. All of the spots in the classes are spaced at least six feet apart and cleaned equipment is set out for each guest. Equinox has also shortened class times to allow more time in between classes for a deep cleaning of the studios. During class, instructors do not walk around the class, they stay at the front of the room to maintain social distancing standards.

Since June, I have not seen crowds of people and the equipment looks very clean in the main parts of the gym. There are also sanitizing stations in several locations around Equinox. To maintain cleanliness standards, Equinox is not providing their iconic chilled eucalyptus towels, which I kind of live for, but they do offer clean towels in plastic bags upon arrival.

One of the many sanitizing stations at Equinox.

One other heartbreaking change at the gym is that the steam room has been closed since the reopening. I used to use the steam room two or three times a week before coronavirus because of the many benefits steam can offer for skin and health, but it was also just so relaxing. Social distancing is a top priority in the bathroom as well. Sinks, bathroom stalls and showers are being rotated to maximize spacing and to make sure they aren’t being over-used.

The bathroom sinks at Equinox Austin.

Have you gone back to the gym yet? I hope these insights help with your decision making on whether to go back into the gym or not. If you have any questions I have not answered in this post, please leave me a comment and let me know!



Summer Reading: All About the Gilded Age

Summer Reading: All About the Gilded Age

This summer I made a few small goals for myself…one of them was to read a new book each month. In June, I started with Empty Mansions: the Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune, and because I’m a sucker for themes, I decided to make my July and August selections about the Gilded Age as well. And with all of the unpleasantness of 2020, I couldn’t think of a better time to take a literary vacation to a time of luxury and opulence.

The Gilded Age–a phrase coined by Mark Twain (renowned writer and outspoken critic of Huguette Clark’s father) in his novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, was a time of unprecedented economic growth in the United States roughly from 1870-1900. At the time, industries in the U.S. were booming, the transcontinental railroad was being built and as a result, the notorious Fifth Avenue mansions were being built by the Vanderbilts, Astors and Clarks and the stunning palaces built by these families dotted the shores of Newport, Rhode Island. Unimaginable fortunes were being made in oil, copper and gold and the United States was coming into its own as a world power.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner, Bill Dedman and Clark’s cousin, Paul Clark Newell Jr., Empty Mansions was a fabulous book to start my summer reading with. Huguette Clark–the daughter of copper magnate W.A. Clark, spent the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital room in New York City even though she had three luxury apartments on Fifth Avenue, a mansion in New Canaan, Connecticut, and a palatial compound in Santa Barbara.

This book intrigued me for a few reasons….first and foremost, Huguette’s mother, Anna, was born in Butte, Montana, a small mining town where Huguette’s father made his fortune. Butte is just a short 30-minute drive from Anaconda–an even smaller mining town where all of my family is from. Huguette was also married in Santa Barbara about two minutes from where I was married, at the Four Seasons, so I had all of these parallels with her that were just so interesting to me.

The book itself is incredibly well written and so fascinating. Huguette’s father almost seems like he was a character from a Wild West film–fighting native Americans for land and tricking his way into the senate. His political background was particularly interesting to me because of how it intertwined with my family’s stories. For years, I have heard my grandmother talk about how Anaconda, Montana (the town both of my parents grew up in and where most of my extended family lives) should have been the capital of the state, but that someone (I now assume that someone is W.A.) stashed ballots to make the town lose the vote. After reading Empty Mansions, I now understand the bitter rivalry between W.A. Clark and the “Copper King” Marcus Daly–who was pushing for Anaconda to become the capital.

A far cry from her boisterous father, Huguette lived the majority of her life as a recluse. She spent a large portion of her fortune on her beloved dolls and a stunning collection of impressionist paintings that museums could only dream of having today. In a time when most would be relishing their fine surroundings and hopping between compounds in Manhattan and Santa Barbara, Huguette lived out the last two decades of her life in hospitals, arguably being manipulated by the doctors and nurses around her. If you are looking for a bizarre and intriguing summer read, I would highly recommend Empty Mansions.

This summer, I am taking a deep-dive into the Gilded Age by reading Empty Mansions, A Season of Splendor and To Marry an English Lord.

For the month of July, I am reading A Season of Splendor: the Court of Mrs. Astor in Gilded Age New York by Greg King. Caroline Schermerhorn Astorthe Mrs. Astor, reigned as the queen of New York society for nearly half a century and single-handedly decided who was in and who was out of the upper crust of society through a social register known as “The 400” …a list W.A. Clark could never gain access to.

In August, I plan to read To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery in the Gilded Age by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace. As fans of Downton Abbey know, during the Gilded Age, it became commonplace for American oil and textile heiresses to raise their social status by marrying English aristocrats who had titles and estates, but no money to run them.

Come back next month for my review of A season of Splendor! I hope you’re all enjoying your summer. Leave me a comment and let me know what you’re reading!