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Second Floor Flat follows an American expat and magazine writer living in London. Expect travel, fashion, design, lifestyle, and photography.

This Week

'Scuse me if I'm a little on the quiet side this week. I'm flying out from London tomorrow so things are, you know, busy.

For logistical reasons, my husband is staying in London for a few months while I get us set up in North Carolina. And while I am beyond excited to meet this little lady tomorrow (!), I'm also crazy sad about being away from him, albeit temporarily. After three years of long distance, followed by over two years of living together, being apart seems much harder than it was before. (And girl, it was hard before.)

But we're both keeping our eyes on the prize, and the prize is such a sweet one: life in a calmer, quieter, more affordable area, being together, getting a dog, and driving out to the beach or mountains for the weekend.

Man alive, I can't wait.

To round things up, here are a few posts I've written on moving/change/all of it that are hopefully helpful for anyone else going through a challenging but exciting time:

Life As An Expat: The Move

Becoming An Ex-Expat (via Angloyankophile)

Dealing With Impermanence

Losing Your Cool: What Happens When You Leave The Big City Behind

How To Lose Control

I'm planning to write again before the new year but in the meantime have a lovely holiday week and I'll catch you on Instagram where I'll soon post pictures of Target, Little Debbie Tree Cakes, shower curtains, and other American bits and bobs.


Behind The Scenes With Shana Luther

Shana Luther first came across my radar thanks to one of my favorite Brooklyn boutiques, Thistle & Clover.

Shana and I became online acquaintances, then internet friends – she's super friendly, totally real, and loves animals, which makes her my kinda' gal.

So today, I'm pleased to take you behind the scenes of Shana's luxury, American-made handbag collection. Read on to learn more about Shana as a designer as well as her production process:

(P.S. – there's a puppy at the end)

Shana began designing handbags in 1999 under the label SML Bags. In true hustler form, she also had a day job in costume design which she calls a "different world" than fashion.

"I worked for a costume shop that constructed costumes for Broadway shows and films. Most costumes for the stage are worn 10 times a week so they have to stand up to sweat, make-up, and regular washing. Because of that, my job at the costume shop really instilled in me the importance of quality." 

In 2012, Shana decided to relaunch her label under Shana Luther Handbags. A good decision, if you were to judge it based on the reaction of the press, not to mention Martha Stewart – Shana was a finalist in Martha Stewart's American Made Awards in 2013, just one year after launching her new label. Awesome.

Shana has called Brooklyn home since 1995 and firmly believes in American manufacturing. In fact, her handbag line was created when she realized that there was a need for American-made luxury handbags.

"I wanted the same luxury but wanted to have more quality control over the production process, which is nearly impossible to do when production takes place overseas. When I set out to work with a manufacturer, I knew I wanted them to be local."

On manufacturing her handbags in New York:

"I live in NYC, which has the greatest (although dwindling) garment district in the world so it was only natural to take advantage of that. After months of research I was thrilled to find a small-batch manufacture within the same borough as me. I’m so proud to be producing my line locally."

Best/worst parts of being a designer?

"My favorite and least favorite thing is having limitless options as to what I can create. Sometimes it’s difficult to edit down my imagination and think in terms of a business owner and predict what your customers want to see from you."

And just for fun:

What’s one book everyone should read? One movie everyone should see?

"Stop what you’re doing and read "Wool" by Hugh Howey. I’m not necessarily a sci-fi fan but this is a definite page turner. Also, it just makes me so happy to have the main character be an intelligent, strong female. 

Rent "Exit through the Gift Shop". I’ve known about the street artist Banksy but when he did his NYC residency last year, I was obsessed with finding out more about him and his work. I love the fact that only a few people in the world know who he actually is." 

 

If you weren't living in NY, where would you be?

"I love the city but if I couldn’t live here I would be in the country somewhere. My husband and I often travel to upstate New York for weekend getaways and I really enjoy being surrounded by nature and having that escape from hectic city life. 

Maybe I would get some chickens and sheep and see what would come of that…"

 

Shop Shana Luther here

Learn more about Shana's process here

Follow Shana here and here

See more of Shana's new puppy, Jackie, here

Thanks to Shana for her time, and thank you for going Behind The Scenes!


Good Reads: 12 December 2014

Ugh, guys. It's my last weekend in London and I'm not really sure what to do with that. To be honest, everything is all logistics right now – lists, phone calls, accounts, luggage weight, insurance, etc. The romance of living abroad often boils down to that: logistics.

But there are also lots of lovely things going on right now. We have a tree up, I have a candle burning, there's vanilla cinnamon coffee going strong, and I get to meet my niece for the first time on Thursday. (!)

I'll write more on everything next week, but in the meantime I hope you have a wonderful weekend filled with cinnamon rolls, holiday songs, and mulled wine.

"...things don’t always work out the way you think they will — now, I take things day by day. I wake up every morning with simple goals: I want to be a good person, and a friend to others. I want to enjoy life the best I can. I want to let myself be vulnerable. As for everything else — if it works, it works." – on-point advice from designer/photographer kenta thomas naoi by way of sho & tell

love new-ish blog, waiting for saturday. so many gals i want to hang with!

no one's more important than you, babe.

london-based Americana band, Lewis & Leigh, just released a new video

best albums of 2014, according to The Bitter Southerner.

culture of the obsessed

a great gift guide

NPR's 2014 book list has me anxious. So. many. things. to. read. (and on that note, what are you reading?)

current soundtrack...

...but try this if you're not one for christmas tunes.  

a man and his dog

the second piece in my writer's workshop column on june letters publishes next week! check out the first here

 

New finds: Litke / Captain Blankenship / Magpie & Rye / Folk Fibers


How To Set Realistic Goals and Keep Them

Let's start with a metaphor:

I've been a vegetarian for almost five years. Non-veggies, and those who have never flirted with the meatless world, usually have questions and comments about my eating habits – they tell me how they could never do it themselves, couldn't go without bacon, wouldn't know know what to eat. 

I always say that not eating meat is a lot like cutting back on sugar – the less you have of it, the less you crave of it. It gets out of your system and suddenly a black bean burger will suit that Five Guys craving just fine. 

While I've never cheated on my veggie-ism, there is one idea about being a vegetarian that people seem to overlook, and that idea has to do with perfection.

Here's the thing about being a vegetarian: You don't have to cut meat completely out of your life. It's up to you how you define your eating habits. For example, maybe you'll only eat meat during the holidays, or let yourself cheat with a burger on special occasions. Your vegetarianism is something you're striving for, and there are no vegetarian mean girls watching your every move. 

I use vegetarianism as a metaphor for all of the goals and changes that we want to make in our lives. Because here's the thing:

Striving for high goals and only accepting the perfect will guarantee you disappointment. 

We live in an all-or-nothing society and spend a lot of time beating ourselves up trying to fit into the mold of the goals that we've created. Not only is this unfair, but it sets you up for disappointment and self-blame. 

If you're into New Year's resolutions, keep this in mind when creating and forming your plans for next year: the goals and changes you might want to make in your life are your goals and you should only focus on doing what you can personally do to meet those goals. Stop beating yourself up for falling slightly short.

Let's put this in concrete terms. If you'd like to make a resolution, consider the following:

Aim to workout four times a week, but don't hate yourself for going three times

Plan to eat healthier, yes, but for the love of god – cheat on weekends, and don't hate yourself for it

Shop local makers and designers when you can, but don't be mean to yourself for also going to Target

 

Set your expectations at a realistic level. You're probably not going to go the the gym (or the class) every day of the week. And as much as you want to, your budget next month might only allow for a Walgreens greeting card rather than something of the letterpress variety.

That's ok.

It might feel like the end of the world at the time, but you're doing the best that you can, and that's something that we could all go into the new year realizing a lot more often.  If, at the time you did your best with the resources and knowledge you had, then that's meeting your goal. 

You did your best. That's enough.

 

Remember the Monica Squitieri giveaway? Super lucky @lepetitebouche has won herself an Anemone Ring. Thanks to all who entered!


Shopping List: 16 Indie Gift Ideas

Hope you guys had a great weekend!

After a quick trip to Liberty, I spent yesterday afternoon having high tea with this gal at sketch – a crazy, theatrical space in central London that houses multiple restaurants of all kinds under one roof. We had tea in the David Shrigley-designed Gallery, and it was insane. And pink! Mostly pink. 

But moving on to more important things, like gift ideas. After all, it's already mid-ish December. 

I'm a firm believer in thoughtful, individual gifts. If you're in a family or friend group that gifts, give some real thought to the person you're purchasing a gift for – what's going on with them? Have they gone through a big change lately? Where are they in their lives, right now?

Maybe you want to treat them to a day out or plan a weekend away together. Or maybe it's something small and fun, like a pair of snuggly, handmade socks for a loved one who's always cold, or a really great mug from a ceramicist for a friend who's recently discovered a tea obsession. Or maybe it's something practical – like an eye cream your sister has wanted all year but hasn't treated herself to. Get it?

Regardless of what the gift actually is, choosing something that speaks to the gift receiver's wants, needs, tastes, and current place in their life can trump cost and size in an instant. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would rather receive a slew of expensive items vs. one well-thought out gift.

To help you on your merry way, I've chosen 16 gift ideas, all from independent makers. Some of the makers are featured in my independent designer directory, some are other favorites and new finds. 

Need help choosing something for someone on your list? I kind of love doing this, so let me know if you'd like some help shopping. I'm totes here for you.

micaela greg accordion knit hat ($95) at beklina

porcelain tray ($55) by the pursuits of happiness

pas chasse thick stripe socks ($28) at spartan

square collar ($235) by moulton

chelsey dyer 2015 astrology wall calendar ($22) at straw & gold

tan pouch ($252) by rennes

sweatshirt scarf ($48) by gift shop brooklyn

the sweater ($160) by zady

worn stories ($17.50 at powell's) by emily spivack

cowboy mule ($198) by marais usa

california olive oil handmade soap ($14) by napa organics

cheers holiday card ($4.50) by little arrow studio

playing cards ($12) at amelia

mini stripe boyshorts ($38) by brook there

white zig mug ($34) by tactile matter

south t-shirt ($25) by the bitter southerner

 

Want more shopping ideas? Check out my Great.ly boutique which stocks indie designers and makers from all over the globe. (Love this, this, and [obvs] this.)