Sunday, June 5, 2011

follow me!

So, I did it! I made the switch to Wordpress. So far, it's great. The transition wasn't totally seamless (I lost a lot of my prior formatting and pictures, and somehow deleted all of my tags), but it's done. Come read more over at

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I've had it...and some other rants

This little blog that maybe 3 people read has suffered, but this time I have better reasons than being super busy with work (true...I'm trying to finish up in a few months, g*d willing) and being preoccupied with family (also true...little brother is living with us for the summer and clings to the brother he never had aka Husband). First, blogger has been eating my draft posts. Has this happened to anyone else? By the time I want to finish and publish them, they're gone and I can't remember remember half of the witty things I wrote (*cough*) So, I am in the middle of switching to Wordpress. I still don't understand the major advantages of WP over Blogger, but I also haven't heard of any major probs over there. Plus, in my possibly wrong mind, I feel like WP lends itself more to wordy people with long blog posts. Who knows. Hopefully I can get the full switch done this weekend, so we can be on our way once again and I can tell you about all the fun summer things I'm excited about (or sit in radio silence for another month...I kid, but only sort of).

As for my rant! What's the deal with the hate for Gwyneth Paltrow? I finally signed up for GOOP, and I kind of love it. I read so much hate and slanted views on the woman, and it baffles me. Yes, she is super wealthy and grew up around movie stars and whatnot. Yes, she is impossibly gorgeous and manicured. But honestly? I feel like her advice and musings are not much different than those from your incredibly chic and worldy girlfriend; the 'it girl' that you know, if you will. The one who seems to have her sh*t together at all times, is always in the know, and will give it to your straight. I don't find GP lacking self-awareness...she knows that she lives a privileged life. But I also don't feel like she doles out advice that one should follow word-for-word. If she showcases the way to wear this season's maxi dress, with a pair of Louboutin grecian sandals and a Stella McCartney bag...that doesn't mean you should go and drop $2k on an outfit. It's about inspiration...making it your own. Sure, most moms don't have an army of nannies and help to make their lives easier...most moms aren't fitting in play time with Glee practices. But, her overall mantra of keeping calm and not beating yourself up are pretty universal, no? And I dare anyone who knocks her cooking to try her father's pancakes or the rosemary chicken and tell me they are not delicious. Girlfriend can cook and I find her cookbook very accessible. As with most things like this, I feel that if she bothers you, just tune out, close the web page, breeze past the cookbook, and move on with your life. The end, rant over.

See you on the other side...

Friday, May 20, 2011

five for friday

I've seen this iteration on many other blogs and thought it would be fun to do! One of the reasons that I don't seem to blog as much as I'd like is that I find these things I love and get bogged down and stressed with writing a full review. 'Five for Fridays' would be a great way to show some things I am loving, with just a little quick commentary.

I only recently learned about, but it's kind of amazing. Usually pretty great deals on anything and everything, snarky commentary, knowledgeable forum members...and the adrenaline-raising woot-off spent waiting for the ever-elusive 'bag of crap.' Check out Lifehacker's Guide to Woot for a crash course.

Both productivity tools that I have been using to help stay on track on hold myself accountable. I started out with minimum restrictions, but quickly elevated I rarely surf the web during 'work hours' and try and beat my time spent working. Rescuetime is a stand-alone program...the most basic version is free and that's probably all you'll need. StayFocused is a Chrome Extension, easy to add to the bookmark bar.

I knew a girl in college who used one of these and finally managed to track one down for myself. It's been a godsend during this particularly rainy May. Easy on the scalp, and gets my hair straight and dry. For volume and more body, I'll still use the round brush-and-dryer method, but this attachment is great for easy, casual days when I need to straighten quickly.

This wonderful new site for internet image clippers like me has been blogged about quite a bit in the last few weeks. My request to join was finally approved, and I've been pinning things left and right. I'm just starting to repin and follow others' boards. Much easier to generate idea boards then Polyvore, in my opinion.

Has also been blogged and reviewed ad nauseum, and with good reason. These things are amazing! I've never had luck with the Sephora nail stick-ons, but these are basically idiot-proof. I pick them up during Buy One, Get One 50% off sales at the drugstore, and get 2 uses out of each box. The glitters are great (you could never get that much coverage from the bottle), and the neons are perfect (never streaky like bottle polish). Dry to the touch on application, with no smell...they'd be perfect for a last-minute mani (if you have 10 minutes or so) just about anywhere. Oh and they really, truly last for over a week, chip-free!

Monday, May 9, 2011

quotable monday

As nervous as I was about this whole process, the one thing I didn't lose sleep over was the possibility of taking bin Laden out. Justice was done. And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn't deserve what he got needs to have their head examined.

What asshole would burn Johan’s school’s brand new jungle gym w/ 20 foot’ flames at midnight last night? I hate you!

--Simon van Kempen on his twitter re: some psycho bastard setting fire to P.S. 29's playground, expressing the sentiments of pretty much everyone in the 'hood

Sunday, May 8, 2011

diy: how to fold corners when re-upholstering a chair

When I was looking through re-upholstery guides before working on my dining chairs, I didn't find many helpful bits on folding corners. When it came time to do them, after stapling the sides of my fabric down, I was at a loss. Luckily, I had two chances to get it right, since I hated my first chosen fabric and stapled a new fabric over it.

A few bits of info before getting started. I used 2-inch foam on my plywood slipseat, with 1-inch dacron batting on top. This made for a pretty thick, cushy seat, and corners that were exceptionally difficult to fold. Here is what I did (the second time around).

1) Staple the side of the fabric down. Start in the center of one side, then staple the opposite center, then the remaining centers, then staple out from those (smoothing and tugging the fabric along the edges as you go). Stop a few inches from each corner.
2) Make a small pleat and fold one corner over so it's parallel to the opposite edge. I made my fold with the pleat facing the side of the seat, not the corner. Staple it down once you have a satisfactory pleat, making sure to tuck excess fabric inside the fold to ensure a smooth edge. This is really difficult to explain, so hopefully the picture will be be helpful:
3) Your next fold will be from the other side of the corner, tucking the fabric in the same way you did the first fold. That is, both folds will go the same direction. The second fold will be stapled perpendicular to the first one. See how in the first picture I'm able to pull the fabric taut from the right side? That's how you get a clean corner and clean, tight edge.

4) Staple like a madwoman (madperson?) to ensure the fabric stays nice and tight and neatly folded away. You can always trim the excess fabric, and no one will ever see the mass of staples. You should end up with something like this:

Not too bad! Not perfect, but considering how much padding I was dealing with, it was the best I could do. Just tuck and pleat until you're happy with the fold, and then staple! Worse comes to worse, you can always pry the staple out and try again. Happy cornering!

Friday, May 6, 2011

diy: reupholstered dining chairs

There is something really fulfilling and comforting about having old furniture around. Take our 'new' dining chairs, which my family used for years before my parents upgraded their dining set and relegated these to the basement. They were the first dining chairs that my parents bought together in this country. Over 40 years later, Husband and I needed a proper set of chairs for our newly refinished street table, and we happily snagged these just before my parents were going to toss them.

Now, wicker/rattan isn't necessarily my favorite material, but it does add an interesting detail to the chair (and I feel like it's making a comeback...I've been seeing wicker furniture pop up in places like Restoration Hardware and ABC Home). Yes the vinyl (vinyl!!!) was all tore up. Yes the foam was nasty and flattened. But a dark espresso paint job, fresh foam and batting for the seats, and a modern, graphic fabric brought them out of the 70s and gave them new life! This project was a comedy of errors, but actually pretty simple if you learn from my mistakes.

* Spray primer (I used a brown primer from Rustoleum)
* Spray paint (Rustoleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover in Satin Espresso)
* Minwax wipe-on poly in Semi-Gloss
* Comfort spray grip for paint cans (an absolute $7 spent)
* 2'' foam for seats
* Dacron batting for seats
* Fabric (both fabrics were ordered from Etsy)
* Staple gun & lots of staples
* Spray adhesive

The painting itself was really simple. The coverage was superb...I did get a few drips here and there from spraying too much paint in one area, but it's hardly noticeable because of the dark paint color. I primed each chair with 1 coat of a brown primer. Next, I did 3-4 thin coats of paint on each chair (I flipped the chairs upside-down at first, and then sprayed the rest standing up). The trick is to start spraying just outside of the piece, use long even strokes, and hold the can about 6'' away. Several thin coats are better then less thick coats.

Blunder #1 - We were on a bit of a time crunch with these because my in-laws were visiting and we had a limited number on non-rainy, non-windy days. We attempted to do one of the chairs indoors. BIG mistake. Do. Not. Attempt. Despite covering as much as possible with dropcloths, the paint just traveled and settled everywhere. The apartment smelled like paint for days and days...even after airing things out with the windows open. Lesson learned, do this outdoors. Best type of day is between 60-70 degrees, sunny, and with little wind. Cover your workspace with a dropcloth and cardboard (because the area just underneath the chair will get coated in paint).

Blunder #2 - I bought several cans of Rustoleum clear coat, to use as a top coat on the chairs. I did 3 thin coats on top of the paint. Not more then a week later, and the paint was chipping off! It could be because I only did one coat of primer (the original chair had some sort of light finish). I went back and touched up the chips, then did 3 medium coats of my trusty Minwax Wipe-On Poly (previously discussed here). So far, so good, and the semi-gloss finish looks much better then the original Matte Clear coat.

The previous foam was glued onto the wood slip seat, so we first had to pry it off. I ordered new custom-cut foam from DIY Upholstery (great customer service and they have a bunch of really helpful videos on youtube). I used spray adhesive to glue the foam to the wood, then covered each seat with dacron (see this video for a helpful demonstration), leaving the dacron unstapled about 2'' from each corner. Next, I stapled the fabric to each seat. You'll see with the first fabric, I chose to center part of the design down each seat, so I had to do a little measuring. With the second fabric, I just had to make sure it was somewhat straight before stapling. The corners were super tricky for me (see this video for helpful tips, and also a separate post on the issue). Finally, we screwed each newly upholstered seat back onto the chair.

Blunder #3 - I searched high and low for a fabric that I liked. I had originally ordered fabric from West Elm, but they have a 3-4 week ship time after you order (no clue why...they don't tell you that on the order page). I also came to my senses and decided that $30 per yard for fabric was a wee bit high. So I cancelled that order and found the second fabric (Valori Wells Del Hi Tapestry fabric in Earth) on Etsy, liking the graphic floral print and muted colors. On my chairs, however, it just looked drab and kind of old-fashioned. Oops! I then found a simple gray lattice print (Premier Prints Gotcha fabric in Storm), for a fresh goes-with-everything modern look. It was also thicker then The Valori Wells (which is really more of a lightweight, crafting fabric, imo). Yes, I am an idiot for not just choosing it in the first place, and spending almost $20/yd in total. Live and learn, my friends.

Final #1

Final #2

COST BREAKDOWN (including mistakes):
* Chairs = Free!
* Primer = $3.97 (2 cans) = $7.94
* Spray paint = $3.97 (4 cans) = $15.88
* Clear coat (x cans) = $3.97 (3 cans) = $11.91
* Minwax clear poly = $7
* Comfort spray grip = $6.77
* Custom-cut 2'' foam (2.4 super density foam) = $23.00
* Dacron = $2.75/yd (4 yards) = $11.00
* Spray adhesive = Free (leftover from past projects)
* Fabric #1 = $8.00/yd (4 yards) = $32.00
* Fabric #2 = ($10.99/yd) (4 yards plus shipping) = $47.00

Total cost (with mistakes) = $162.50, Cost per chair = $40.63
Total cost (assuming no mistakes) = $118.59, Cost per chair = $29.65

I'm sure I could have done this all cheaper...used coupons for the spray paint, ordered the right fabric from the beginning, only purchased the wipe-on poly...but the cost/chair is still very very reasonable! And I think the final (final #2) results are fab!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

review: Madewell high-riser jeans

Retails for: $125 (purchased with coupon code)
Verdict: The fit is amazing, no fear of showing the back crack, rich indigo color, super soft.

I read a recent interview with Bethenny Frankel, in which she stated that, she liked to 'edit her closet' in her spare time. Most people would roll their eyes at this, but it actually makes perfect sense to me. Women accumulate so much stuff over time...jeans here, a cardigan there, another pair of wedges to go with those....before you know it you've run out of hangers again and are cursing/rummaging through your closet for that old Rachel Pally cardigan that's lost in a sea of black cardigans. *breathe* I imagine this situation is only worse for someone in Bethenny's position, who is able to make countless frivolous purchases and is also gifted items on a daily basis.

My point (if you're still with me) is that I have come to love editing my closet. Every time I'm bored or have a few extra minutes, I'll stand in front of the closet and pull a few items that I want to evaluate. I'll try them on, lay out a few outfits with the pieces...and if I'm struggling to make them work...out they go. A few weeks ago, I pulled all of my cheapo Forever 21 skinny jeans and decided to toss them. I was never able to have a comfortable day in these. They would always fall down my hips, ending with baggy knees and a large drop crotch. I attribute this to the low low rise, cheap denim, and cuts for anyone other than women with child-bearing hips. The worst part? In my sad cast-off pile sat 6 pairs of $9-$11 skinny jeans...nearly $70 worth! Thankfully, I'd worn out the cost on all of them, so no love lost.

I've been reading about the Madewell High Riser jean for some time...almost always backordered on the website and universally flattering. Costing right around $100 with a coupon code, I decided these would be my investment skinnies. The verdict?

These are skinny and absolutely hug my legs, but have more heft than jeggings, while still being super soft. The waist is high (2 inches below my bellow button), but I love the extra material that holds in the tummy. As a sidenote, doesn't it seem true that our preferred pant rise is inversely proportional with our age? Ugh, there I've gone and embarrassed myself with nerdspeak. ANYWAY. Even with the high waist, there is no sign of mom jean butt. They stay put throughout the day, and never give me saggy knees. The inseam is a perfect-for-me 32'' that I can easily cuff in warmer weather.

As for the sizing, I chose my true size (right now a 27), but could probably have sized down to a 26 as they still have some give and will no doubt stretch with wear. Strangely, these are just about the only Madewell item I have that is tts...the sweaters seem to run small, while the tops and dresses seem a tad big (in no land am I currently a 0 dress size, I assure you). Back to the jeans...they fit well, the color is a perfect non-faded inky blue, and the price is right. Highly recommend!

Monday, April 25, 2011

review: GHD Classic Styler Hair Straightener

I didn't even begin to straighten my not-quite-curly, not-quite-straight hair until college. Seriously! My freshman year college roommate introduced me to the wonders of a round brush and a flat iron. What followed were 4 years of chatting with my girlfriends in one of our rooms, while we flat-ironed our hair into stick straight condition before going out. I managed to go through 3 (!) irons before graduating.

These days, I really limit my use of can be tough on hair to use regularly. I had an old Hot Tools piece that did the job for years...and then quietly stopped working a few weeks ago. At 30, I decided it was time to pony up and invest in a good straightener. After tons of research, I decided on the GHD Classic Styler. Although it does have the dubious distinction of being my most expensive beauty item to date ($185 retail oy!), the GHD isn't my first foray into expensive hair tools. I hemmed and hawed before buying my Solano Pro dryer, and have never looked back. With these types of things, you really do get what you pay for.

The first time I used the GHD was before dinner with friends on a rainy Saturday. I quickly blow-dried my hair (after coating with Moroccan Oil and Alterna Caviar Styling Tonic) and then used the straightener, working in 4 layers from the bottom up. I finished my thick, unruly mop in about 10 minutes (the Hot Tools took 20-30 minutes). The result was shiny hair that had amazing swing and movement, and felt so so soft. I've got nothing but good things to here are a few notable pros:

* Heats up in no time...and beeps twice to let you know it's ready.
* There is no temperature setting, but this is a good thing! The tool adjusts the heat after sensing porosity in your hair.
* Automatically shuts off after 30 minutes of not being used (eliminating that nagging fear I always had of burning the house down).
* 9-foot cord is long, and has a swivel cord, which really useful for placing this on various surfaces (under a heat-safe sheath or thick towel, of course).
* The body surrounding the plates doesn't get too hot, so no worries of burning an ear or your forehead.
* Barrel is rounded. I'm still getting the hang of using the GHD to curl my hair!
* For frequent travelers, this styler automatically adjusts to international voltage.

I purchased mine from Folica with a 20% off plus free shipping code, and recently saw the GHD display ravaged at Sephora during their 15% off special for Beauty Insiders. Still not a steal, but better than full price!

Monday, March 28, 2011

equinox nyc review continued

I'm about as cheap as they come for things, but upgrading my Equinox gym membership was one of my best decisions. Our closest location is now Brooklyn Heights, which has limited class offerings and oddly-timed classes. I also have greater flexibility to work outside of the apartment and drop into any location for an afternoon or evening class. I haven't yet visited many locations, but I plan to try them out once the weather warms up. As promised in a post from a long time ago (yikes, sorry) are some reviews of Equinox locations that I have visited.

Equinox 19th Street (Union Square/Flatiron)

Housed in the original Lord and Taylor, the 19th St. gym is 4 levels (you enter on the 2nd). It's a fairly open and airy space...the 3rd level overlooks the main floor. Free weights, weight machines, and cardio equipment are scattered throughout the 4 levels. There is a cafe on the main floor that does smoothies and made-to-order sandwiches, salads, etc., and a store (also on the main floor) for when you forget your socks or something.

Good variety of clientele. I have seen grandmothers here, as well as college students, hipsters, models, corporate folks, and plain janes. It tends to be a younger crowd in the evenings, but overall, I always felt comfortable here.

*One of the newer locations...fairly clean and well-equipped.
*Locker rooms have bamboo slats over the standard shower floor...makes a difference and just feels cleaner.
*Great variety and schedule of classes, from yoga and sculpt to Pilates. Consequently, I found that some of the best instructors teach here (including one of my faves, Kellie Roman, who has since left NYC...*tear*).
*The spin bikes are the newer variety Schwinn bikes with attached monitors. It's amazing to have an instructor that actually uses the computers, teaching with RPMs, power, etc.
*Staff is super friendly.

*There is a set of weight machines located just behind the check-in desk that are almost always being used by grunting men or trainers and trainees. I found it really difficult (and sometimes intimidating) to ever do a proper circuit.
*The weight areas were almost always overrun with boys! As this was my first real foray into using a NYC gym, I felt super intimidated to workout there.
*The windows on the main level are always covered up by ads or pictures (all by Equinox), which blocks almost all natural light from coming in. The 4th floor windows are open. It's strange to have almost no light coming into such an open and airy space.
*The spin classes fill up crazy fast here. There were times that I set an alarm to remember to register, and the class was already full...that's over 40 bikes filling up in less then 2 minutes. Really annoying.

Equinox Soho (just one block from Houston St.)

This location is 4 levels, but strangely, you don't even reach the check-in counter until the 3rd level. There is a store and a Wichcraft on the 1st level, a small lounge area on the second level, almost everything on the 3rd level, and then the studio rooms and men's locker room on the 4th level. The cardio equipment is all set up in one location - next to the women's locker room, and the rest of the floor is for weights.

I'll say it upfront...that 3rd floor is the biggest meat market! Everything is out in the even get to the women's locker room you have to pass a bunch of weight machines, trainers and trainees, etc. The gym goers are on the young side, and I encounter rude and/or entitled attitudes nearly every time I go. I swear the concept of common courtesy doesn't exist at this location. I'm talking about being slammed in the head by those opening lockers (ever heard of 'excuse me?'), used razors and shaving cream left in the showers, used towels left on the benches, etc. Overall, the crowd is young, good-looking, and pretty fit.

*Good variety of classes. Although I really only come here for spin, I know that there are so many classes to choose from throughout the day. The instructors seem pretty great too. If it weren't for some awesome spin instructors (and the proximity to Griffin's daycare), I'd steer clear of this location.
*This is the only location with tampons in a jars in the locker room. I'm sure that is useful information for someone!

*I covered my cons about the clientele above (ugh!)
*Crazy crowded in the evenings...if you get there past 7pm you probably won't find an open locker.
*Locker room is a little cramped and shower stalls are small (also no wooden slats on the floor). The water is almost always lukewarm at best during peak times, and the shower pressure is abysmal.
*For such a high traffic location, you'd think they'd have the newer Schwinn spin bikes with computers. Nope!

Equinox Midtown (43rd and Lexington, next to Grand Central)

I've only been once because I hated it and never went back, but I think it was 3 levels...there is a small cafe on the main floor.

Mostly corporate clientele. This location is right across from Husband's office, and I think many of those (and other) lawyers come here.

*Never really that crowded (according to Husband).
*Convenient to Grand Central.

*Limited class schedule (this gym seems to cater to the hours of corporate folks).
*Awful spin room layout. Long and narrow, with the bikes set up in long rows facing the instructor bike. The bikes are super close together on all sides. You have to walk up and down the aisles to get to your bike...meaning it's also impossible to duck out early.
*I don't remember the locker room, which must mean it was adequate but unremarkable. I know the showers aren't outfitted with the wooden slats, and they are on the small side.

Equinox Midtown (44th and 5th Ave)

Only 3 levels, and on the small side. No cafe or store (but a shoeshine on one level)! You enter on the 3rd level...both locker rooms are on the 2nd level, spin room is on the 1st level, and weights are distributed throughout.

Mostly corporate folks, but a good mix of young and old. People seem to want to get in and out quickly, but everyone is friendly and considerate.

*Perhaps the cleanest location I've been to. This place is immaculate. The staff are super friendly.
*Spacious locker room...showers have the wooden slats that I love and Speakman showerheads with great pressure (critical for rinsing out the mounds of Kiehls shampoo suds I use). There is actually one aisle with a counter and wall-to-wall mirrors, as well as hair dryers. SO much better than other locations, which just have a few small stations (so only one person can use the station at a time).
*Layout of spin room is good...nice spacing between bikes. Bikes are older Schwinns with no computers though.
*Wireless available throughout the gym; consequently, lots of folks with ipads doing cardio,

*I really can't think of any, I love this location! Maybe the's a bit limited as this location mostly caters to working folks (though not as much as the Lexington Ave. location).
*No store and no cafe.

Equinox Brooklyn (near Borough Hall, at corner of Joralemon & Court Sts.)

Five floors, and really open and airy throughout. This is the only location that gets amazing natural light everywhere (even in all of the studio class rooms). The 1st floor where you enter has a small cafe, computers, and coat check. The 2nd floor has the check-in desk, store, and kids' room. weight equipment is spread throughout the 3 main workout floors, but if you're just doing circuits and just a few moves with free weights, you could stick with the 2nd and 4th floors (avoiding the 'boys' area on the 4th floor). Cardio is also spread among two floors.

Very mixed clientele - young, old, male, female...lots of young professionals. Mid-day, I see a lot of moms. Generally a nice and courteous bunch.

*I've always felt comfortable here, doing weight training, picking up a jump rope in the main studio, etc.
*Good variety of classes, though I wish there were more spin classes (and better instructors, though we love Rachel Buschert, our Saturday morning instructor).
*The main studio is HUGE (the biggest I think I've seen), and light and airy. I've never felt cramped in a class here.
*This is the only location I've seen that has a child care/play room. I'm not sure what this service costs, whether you need to reserve a time, etc, but it seems like a wonderful thing to have if you need it. Many of the women in my Sculpt class leave their kids here while they workout, and then shower.

*The coat check room has really odd's only open briefly in the mornings and evenings. This meant that I always had to carry a lock with me to the gym, and store things in a locker. Now that spring is coming, it may not be as much an issue, but it was an inconvenience.
*Spin room is small and cramped, and gets really stuffy. The bikes are older, and although I don't use them...most of the cages for the pedals are broken! This baffles me, since I'd say half or more of the people taking spin don't clip in to the pedals.
*For busier spin classes, the staff are pretty militant about giving bikes away...we have literally walked in 3 minutes before class to them about to give away the bike. Now I'd understand if this was the policy at every Equinox, but it's not.
*Almost all of the treadmills (with the exception of maybe 6) are located in rows along the back windows...right next to the heaters. This makes runs a real sweatfest sometimes, unless some kind soul or staff decides to crack open a window.
*The locker rooms are small and cramped. There aren't nearly as many lockers here as other locations. The showers are small (no wooden slats), and strangely, almost none of them drain properly. Also, all of the showers have semi-sheer glass doors (unlike other locations that have half of the showers in little stalls with a shower curtain for more privacy). This doesn't bother me (having lived for 2 years in my sorority house with communal bathrooms and those same semi-sheer glass doors), but I know it's important to many woman I've seen.
*The staff here are sort of meh. No one is overly friendly, and some of the cleaning staff are downright rude. At least three times, my feet have been mopped or swept over in the locker room (eww)! I've always seen them hanging out in the locker room, chatting for prolonged periods, while the place is packed. The trainers never smile or even say hello when I pass them (they do at most other locations).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

review: Madewell Brownstone Bag

Back in January we re-did our annual budget and decided to cut back on things like eating out and shopping in an attempt to save money and start investing like grown-ups. Each month, I've got to stick to our budget allotment, which has really forced me to edit my shopping wishlist and separate the must-haves (new running sneakers) from the not-necessarys (another print blouse).

I mentioned on a past wishlist that I'd been hunting for a black purse...well Husband looked through this blog (sneaky!) and surprised me with the Marc Jacobs Classic Q Natasha purse for the holidays. I love it, and have been wearing it on the regular. The only time it doesn't work so well is for evenings out...the crossbody somehow doesn't complete my standard blouse/skinny jeans/boots look so well.

Enter the Madewell Brownstone Bag. It's been on sale via the website for months, and I bought it when Madewell was offering an additional % off sale items. I'm pleased with it so far! Now, it's no Chanel, but I love that it's a slightly dressier version of a purse I might carry everyday.

The good: The leather is buttery soft, and the construction seems really great. The bag can expand to a decent size, but doesn't appear to large. The chains are set up so that you can wear the bag crossbody or on the shoulder.

The not-so-good: The color is more of a soft black (not true black), which may bother some. Also, it's sometimes difficult to get the chains to sit just right...hard to describe but they almost never lay perfectly right (you can see a kink in the second pic below).

For the price I paid (around $70 - nearly a 50% reduction from the retail price of $158), I think this bag is well worth it. I've already got my fancy party clutches and mini designer bags for events and dressy nights out - this one fits the bill as a slightly dressier purse for dinner dates and casual drinks (which, let's face it, comprises the majority of my limited social calendar). Madewell also has a suede version and this amazing (albeit expensive) pony hair version.

Friday, February 18, 2011

how to dremel a dog's nails

Griffin is normally a sweet charmer, but take out the nail clipper and he turns into a biting terror. In Manhattan, we'd just take him to the local Petco for a trim - best $10 we could spend. He was also going out with a walker every day, and the asphalt really wore the nails down. In Brooklyn, we use daycare pretty regularly, so no chance for natural filing. His nails click when he walks, and I'm afraid he'll have foot and leg problems down the road. The final straw was when we attempted a trim with a guillotine-style clipper (apparently the worst kind to use, oops)...he bit, he flinched, we clipped the quick...blood all over the white slipcovers! After a little research, I decided to try a Dremel tool, and so far it has been a success! A few lessons learned:

1) Unless you have a bigger dog, you'll want a Dremel with lower speeds. I bought this version, with only two speeds of 5,000 and 13,000 rpms. I've read that the MiniMite is good as well, but its lowest speed is still 10,000 rpms.

2) HIGHLY recommend a rechargeable model. This thing powers down quickly, and I can't imagine how many batteries you'd have to go through with another model.

3) This Dremel guide seems to be THE definitive internet source for how to trim a dog's nails. I also watched a few youtube videos for guidance.

4) Griffin gets very suspicious of new things that make sounds, so it was critical that we introduce the dremel slowly. We began by letting him sniff it, treating him as he did. Whenever he napped, we would place the Dremel very close to him. Next, we started turning it on and off, treating him each time. We also worked on his 'paw' trick (he gives us his paw when asked) and would quickly touch the sanding block to a nail or two. We did all of this over the course of one week. Even now, I always follow this sequence: ask for paw, treat, touch dremel to nails, treat, turn dremel on, treat, ask for paw and begin to dremel nails, treat after paw is done.

5) One thing the above guide doesn't tell you is how to hold the dremel with respect to the nail. It should rotate towards you, no matter how you are holding the paw. I hold the paw and gently press on each pad, which pushes the nail out a bit, before proceeding.

6) Be super careful if your pup has long fur, as it can get caught in the spinner. You can pull old pantyhose over the paw, poking the nails through, to avoid ripping the hair out.

7) Don't spend more than a few seconds on each nail. A quick swipe or two, and then move on to the next. You'll know you are on the nail too long if you get a burning smell.

8) Griffin's front paws are easily done while he is sitting. The back paws are more difficult. The best way we've found is by having him lie on his side. Either Husband will feed him treats, or I'll catch him when he's really sleepy.

9) The guide recommends trimming every 4 days if you are trying to get the quick (the blood vessel inside the nails) to recede. This seems like a good rule. I typically do the front paws one day, and the back paws the next, then repeat in 4 days. I'm hoping he will come to expect the dremel as a normal part of his grooming routine, along with the brushing and teeth cleaning.

We honestly never thought we could handle G's nails! If you are at your wit's end, give the dremel a try!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

spicing things up

One of my favorite organizational tools that we incorporated into our kitchen is the Ikea Grundtal system. Our galley kitchen is fairly common as far as NY apartments go, and I wanted to free up as much counter space as possible (kitchen real estate that was sorely lacking in our last apartment). We installed two rods spanning one entire wall, and use it to hold two dish racks, a basket for dish soap and sponge, paper towel holder, a spice rack, and an 'odds and ends' basket. We also purchased a few extra sets of S hooks for anything that might need to be hung in a pinch.

We especially love the dish rack and spice shelf. No longer will we need to deal with a grimy dish tray...our racks can simply be unhooked and cleaned in the dishwasher. The spice shelf finally lets me keep my spices in plain view. However, I soon ran into a problem. Spice jars were stuffed end-to-end on the shelves, and looked sloppy! I would constantly knock the basil over while trying to reach for the cinnamon. Plus my type A side hated that the jars weren't uniform in size and shape.

After reading the tips from SmittenKitchen and DomesticDaddy, I decided to order 24 Libby spice jars. Thanks to my new Amazon Prime status (students get a year free....once my year is up I will probably renew), they were in my hands 2 days later.

Getting 24 labels off the bottoms was easy...I placed the jars in a rimmed cookie sheet and poured in a shallow layer of water. 30 minutes later, I could quickly swipe off the label (and glue), leaving clean glass behind. I printed labels using clear Avery mailing labels, and cut them down to size with my second most prized possession from the wedding behind Husband paper cutter.

These jars aren't a perfect fit, but they are a marked improvement. Not all spice jar contents will exactly fit in the Libbys. Meaning I have a few tablespoons of this and that shoved in my back cabinets. Also, only 4 Libbys will fit on the Grundtal shelves. I displayed my most used spices, and carefully stacked the remainder in the pantry/kitchen storage/Griffin supply storage closet.

PS - Transferring the spices is messy business. Do it on some paper towels.
PPS - It's almost impossible to apply the labels straight and uniform unless you have the steady hands of a surgeon (I do not).
PPPS - I am seriously considering ordering bigger versions of these jars for misc. kitchen food stuff. We spotted these at the bar of a local restaurant, housing mint leaves ready to be muddled for mojitos!

BEFORE (this was halfway through dividing and discarding, oops)

AFTER (that top row is pretty steady, despite how precarious it looks)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

recipe: pistachio ice cream

I think every Indian kid remembers their trips to the Indian grocer once a week. I'd peer at the spices and the bags of lentils before making our way to the registers, where I would reach into the cooler and grab a kulfi. Kulfi is Indian ice-cream, but not made the traditional way. It's creamy and fragrant (thanks to saffron and cardamom) and comes in exotic flavors - my favorite was always pistachio.

I finally found a recipe that rivals that kulfi I enjoyed as a kid. It still needs some personal tweaks, but is pretty close to perfect. Under the guise of being called 'Pistachio Ice Cream,' this isn't like that green stuff you can get at Haagen Daz. It's got a wonderful nutty flavor and tastes really, really indulgent. So much so that just one scoop is enough to satisfy the nightly sweet cravings of Husband and I. Ice cream purists might not believe that this is an egg-free ice cream...its creaminess comes from reducing heavy cream and milk (much like a traditional kulfi is made).


*2 cups whole milk
*1 T. plus 1 t. cornstarch
*1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
*1 1/4 cups heavy cream
*2/3 cup sugar
*1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
*1/2 cup toasted pistachios, very finely ground (toasted in oven at 350 degrees F for 15 min)
*1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
*1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


1) In a small bowl, mix 2 T. of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, measure out the cream cheese and let soften.
2) In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat for about 4-5 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the milk-cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
3) Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the pistachios, almond extract and salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20-30 minutes.
4) Freeze in your ice cream maker (I used my Kitchenaid mixture ice cream maker attachment, and it took about 15-20 minutes). Pack the ice cream into an airtight container. Freeze the pistachio ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

*The original recipe calls for the ground pistachios to be strained out of the mixture just before freezing in an ice cream maker, but I did not do this. Kulfi is never strained of its nuts.

*In the future, I might try adding a touch of cardamom to this ice cream, at step 3.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Marc by Marc Jacobs lock

Speaking of locks...this one is pretty hilarious. Apparently there were only 443 (random number, no?) made in the country!

Monday, January 10, 2011

ready for some pain?

I just discovered after being stuck inside Friday morning by the snow. I had planned to do a weight training circuit at the gym (my new year's plan is to get more weight training in my life for strong bones and more toning), but instead started looking through youtube for 20- or 30-minute guided workouts.

I urge you to save your judgements until after you watch at least one video. Zuzana (the woman who demonstrates the workouts) has an amazing body, isn't afraid of cleavage, and sweats in little more than sports bras and bottoms. But this chick is hardcore. I made the mistake of trying out the Killer 600 Rep Workout and was shaking halfway through. Zuzana runs the site with her boyfriend (husband?) Frederick, who I assume takes the amazing pictures of her as well.

Apparently these are the only workouts that Zuzana does, about every other day. They suggest Active Rest Days in between, and also follow a 5-meal/day plan. There are a few things that make this site stand out from the rest. The workouts don't depend on gym appears that you can do most of them at home, using your own body weight. I also like that there are detailed descriptions of the workouts, and tips for maintaining proper form to avoid injury. The workouts are pretty creative as well (there is a series of videos inspired by James Bones, with titles such as 'Sweat Another Day' and 'Quantum of Sweat'). The pair seems to have a decent following as well...their youtube videos have TONS of hits (Killer 550 Rep Workout has over 2 million views).

Zuzana is also kind of endearing and relatable. How can you not like someone that says: "Even on your worst 'my butt looks like a plastic bag filled with semi-mashed potatoes' days the fashion gods at lululemon have your booty covered and for that they have my thanks."

The whole regimen may seem a little hardcore, but the workouts themselves are tough and no-nonsense. One warning - you may want to watch the videos on low volume...wouldn't want your neighbors to mistake Zuzana's heavy breathing for, umm, dirty video. That's all I'm sayin...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Guide to NYC apartment hunting

How to find the perfect an apartment in NYC

NYC is the third city I've lived in during my adult life, and has by far the most complicated rental market! We have a much better handle on the whole apartment-hunting process, having lived here for over 2 years and recently tackled our 2nd move. It's not easy, but with some patience and flexibility, you can find an apartment that meets all most of your needs.

The NYC rental market is kind of like a sample sale. Tons of people scramble for a low amount of inventory, nothing is completely perfect, and you often have little time to make a final decision. Oh and on average, rental costs are higher then any other US city. When we first moved here, Husband's company partially subsidized the cost of a broker, who we met with several times to view apartments and narrow down neighborhoods. We ended up in a neighborhood we loved, with a decent apartment that was more expensive then we originally wanted. We found our current apartment online (without the help of a broker), and although not perfect, we're so much happier. We moved because we wanted a cheaper place (so we could start saving in earnest for future moves, purchases, and eventual kiddos).

Tip 1 - You don't need to use a broker.
I'm convinced that most people looking for NYC rentals don't need a broker. The only exceptions to this would be if you are new to the city and/or extremely short on time. Our original broker helped us narrow down desired neighborhoods by showing apartments all over the city. We got a good sense of what our money would get us (for example, the price of a 1BR on the Upper East Side is generally much less then an equivalent 1BR in the West Village). We also found an apartment in just a few days, and were able to move 2 weeks after that. The obvious downside to using a broker is the fee - anywhere from 8% - 15% of one year's rent. In worse economic times, you could negotiate this fee down, but I've heard it's not so easy these days with the market on an upswing. If you do go the broker route, use someone on a recommendation and one who you are comfortable with.

Tip 2 - Pick a neighborhood or two.
There are so many great neighborhood guides available...these should be a NYC newbie's first stop. It helps to have a few possible hoods in mind to focus your search. Consider your lifestyle and what's important to you. If you need to be close to the action, and love checking out trendy bars and restaurants, maybe Tribeca is a good fit. Maybe you're a runner and need to be close to the park...the Upper East (or West) Sides could work. The wonderful thing about NYC (cue the cheese factor) is that there really is a place for everyone.

Once we decided on moving to Brooklyn, we narrowed down our search to Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights. For us, being close to the 4/5 and F subway lines were important. We also happened to love the vibe in these friendly, clean and quiet, plenty of restaurants and bars, etc.

Tip 3 - Do your research.
I think I say this every time I give tips, but with NYC renting, it's critical. We were doing searches almost every day for months before our lease was up to get an idea of apartment costs and how quickly inventory was getting taken. Our main search vehicles were and, though we also checked We even went to see a few apartments, 'for fun'. Doing this helped us decide that the East Village was out (most 1BR apartments were way smaller then we wanted, while 2BRs were still pricey), and confirmed that we were priced out of Gramercy. Craigslist can be hit or miss, but once you start looking through listings every day, you can easily separate the sketchy from legitimate listings. You'll want to lookout for the same listings that get posted every day (to ensure they pop up at the top of people's searches), and apartments that have been on the market for over 60 days (what's wrong with them?).

Tip 4 - Crunch the numbers.
Aside from considering rent, it's a good idea to factor in a broker fee and moving expenses to your final housing budget. We found that most decent listings on the above mentioned websites were for 'fee' apartments (as opposed to 'no fee' apartments). At first it seemed unfair...WE were finding these places, so why should we pay a broker? But, consider that for our current building, the landlord works exclusively with a broker to rent the 8 apartments in his building. The broker handles the listings and vets potential renters before the landlord ever knows about them - completing the credit checks, collecting the applications, etc. The broker for our building was very responsive, helpful, and accommodating, so we felt comfortable paying him a fee (albeit one we had negotiated down). We budgeted for a 10% broker fee. As for moving expenses, we budgeted for $1000 (to move from our 1BR), where we packed everything ourselves (pack and moves were at least $500 more expensive). Thankfully it ended up being less. It's not impossible to find a no-fee apartment...just difficult (in our experience), and we didn't want to pass up a great apartment just because of a broker fee.

Tip 5 - Be patient & flexible.
My flexible schedule really helped us for this move. We would find an apartment and be able to schedule a viewing the same or next day. If you see an apartment you like, call the broker immediately (many don't respond well via email) to express interest and set up a time to view the place. This would also be the time to ask 'make or break' questions (we always asked whether the place was pet-friendly or not). Most listing agents returned our calls within 12 hours. If an apartment is already rented (this happens often), be sure and ask if the agent has anything comparable or available within your budget.

Tip 6 - Talk to your friends.
We got broker recommendations from our friends, and even tips on available apartments in their buildings. Ultimately, we found our place without help, but our former next door neighbors happened to be friends we directed to that vacant apartment! I've learned that it's not really a faux pas to ask what someone's rent is (at least to your friends, not random people), like it is elsewhere. Everyone knows they're paying more then they should and most are happy to share.

Tip 7 - Make a list of what you need versus what you want.
Sure you may NEED a 1 BR, 1 Bath, but do you really also need a renovated kitchen AND bath? Decide on what you need versus what you want. Most people I know had to compromise in some way on their final place. Our list of needs was for: a 1BR 1Bath (at least), updated kitchen, and pet-friendly place. Our 2nd bedroom and outdoor space happened to be a wonderful bonus. Few places have washer/dryers I found. Strangely, I'd be willing to sacrifice a dishwasher for a washer/dryer!

Tip 8 - Make sure your stuff will fit.
We saw some East Village walk-ups with stairwells that would never accommodate our couch (no matter how skilled the movers were). Similarly (and often in the same apartments), we saw bedrooms that would never fit our queen-sized bed. I could sacrifice a table or chair, but not our custom-ordered Pottery Barn couch or solid wood sleigh bed.

Tip 9 - Know when you can move.
Most apartments are listed to be rented within 30 days. You'll have some difficulty finding rentals beyond that. We found ours about 45 days out, and managed to pro-rate the rent for the half month. The summer (May through July) was really slow, and then things picked up in August (I'm assuming due to the influx of the newly employed). I was told by numerous brokers that things slowed down September through December, and picked up after the New Year.

Tip 10 - Have your materials ready to go.
Things you might need: a bank statement, letter from your employer verifying your salary, and letter of support from current or previous landlord (usually a form letter affirming that you were a good tenant who paid rent on time). Be ready to give your social security # and $ to run a credit check. You might also need to pay a security deposit, application fee, first and/or last month's rent, or a broker fee. We made sure we had enough $ in our checking account to cover these up-front expenses.

Friday, January 7, 2011

equinox nyc review

I was in the middle of lunge-and-bicep curl combinations in my fave new class (more on that soon) when the idea came to me - reviewing Equinox and its classes! When we first moved to NYC, it took me some time to get used to the idea of paying so much for a gym membership. Living in DC (and later, Baltimore), I had been lucky enough to either have Washington Sports Club heavily subsidized through work or gyms in my apartment buildings. In NYC, we've found that a decent gym will cost at least $100 per month. Now, this isn't a hard and fast rule, and there are plenty of sources (Fitness NYC, Buns of Steal) that can provide more info than me. We didn't do a wide search on gyms either. Husband's company subsidizes membership of a few (Equinox, New York Sports Club, and New York Health & Racquet), so we chose between those three. Before we moved, I had a one-club membership for the location at 19th Street and Broadway in Flatiron. After moving to Brooklyn, I upgraded to all-access membership, meaning I could use any gym in the country. Here is a list of my Pros/Cons for Equinox.


*Cleanliness and amenities
I've read enough horror stories (and paid attention in college Microbiology) to be thoroughly scared of MRSA infections. That is to say, the fear of picking one up from a dirty gym weight was enough to put a clean gym at the top of my priority list. Every Equinox I've visited is really, really clean. Attendants are always vacuuming and wiping down machines in common areas and the locker room. At peak times (weekday evenings), the cardio machines can get a little yuck, but for the most part, the equipment is clean and people are good about wiping everything after use. I do wish they kept antibacterial wipes around...sometimes I'll wet a towel with some antibacterial foam (from the various dispensers around) and wipe a machine down myself. But from most personal accounts, I gather that Equinox is one of the cleaner gyms in the city, and you pay a premium for it.

This premium also gets you some great amenities. Fluffy, clean towels are always available. Eucalyptus-soaked towels - once only a summer staple - are neatly rolled and stored in mini fridges for cooling off year round. The locker room is stocked with razors, tampons, mouthwash, cotton balls, swabs, spray deodorant, and hairspray. The showers feature Kiehl's shampoo, conditioner, and body wash...and there are always at least 3 huge dispensers of the cult Creme-de-Corps lotion around. I love that squeaky clean feeling from using tons and tons of glorious, foaming shampoo...and you can certainly get that here. Oh and there are plenty of Solano hairdryers to dry your hair in no time.

Equinox has a pretty wide variety of classes. Since I'm coordination-challenged, I tend to steer clear of anything too dance-y or complicated. That being said, I've surprised myself with the classes I have tried out and enjoyed. As far as spinning goes, the bikes are great (Schwinn bikes - most clubs are also adding output computers to the bikes). The instructors can be hit or miss, but those that are great have a large and loyal following. It seems that Equinox really keeps up with fitness trends as well - I've noticed classes such as Barre Burn (ballet moves with a weighted bar), Whipped (using weighted ropes), and Zumba (this is still a hot trend, no?). Classes I've tried and loved include Dawn Parker's Body Sculpt, spin with Shaina Manning or Wil Ashley, James Darlings' Pilates, Impact, and Kettlebells. I plan to review most of these soon...I often find that class descriptions can be vague and unhelpful, and usually turn to personal reviews to decide whether to try classes.

Whether you choose the one-gym or all-access options, the one thing we liked about Equinox was the plethora of locations around the city. Our old 'home' location was less than 10 minutes away, and our new location in Brooklyn is about 15 minutes walking (and right next to the subway). Husband has about 3 locations within easy walking distance of his Midtown office.

*Other pros: All of the locations I've been to have cafes (with food and smoothies), spas (never been, but my brother was once gifted a massage that he raved about), saunas in the bathroom (to sweat out some toxins before a shower)) and good music playing overhead (in case you forget your ipod or it dies mid-run).


I'm not gonna lie - this might be the most expensive gym in the city behind the Reebok gym and maybe the Exhale Spas. I've not seen many membership prices posted (even on yelp or citysearch), so I'll post mine. We paid $139/month for a single-location membership (which I believe has increased at least $5) and now pay $175/month for all-access. I don't remember whether we paid initiation fees, but I do know they usually have specials that reduce or eliminate the fees. I've heard that student memberships are around $145. Yeah, it's a ton of $. But, we reason that since it's for our health, for a clean and upscale gym, where we actually use the services and products, it's worth it. Paying-as-you-go at the various yoga/pilates/cycling outlets around the city is just as, if not more expensive.

*Not all locations are created equal
I LOVED our last home location in Flatiron. It was clean, the layout was open and airy, there was a great variety of classes all day, and I just loved the locker rooms (the aisles were huge and the showers were big and spa-like). I had heard of the mythical awesomeness of the Soho location, and checked it out when I upgraded my membership. It paled in comparison. Maybe it's just my general resistance to change and comfort level in gyms in general. It helps to read the reviews on yelp and citysearch when sussing out locations. One of the downsides to our current Brooklyn home location is that there aren't as many classes offered as, say, Soho or Tribeca. I have no idea whether membership rates here are different from others around the city, but if you have the option, it might be good to visit a few locations before committing to one.

Other cons: None of the cardio machines have individual tvs on them, though there are many tvs positioned in front of the machines. I workout sans glasses (and rarely wear contacts), so unless I'm in the front row, watching tv isn't an option. Peak times (early morning, after 6pm) can be crazy crowded. I suppose this isn't unique to Equinox in a city of millions, but it's worth noting (and sometimes annoying enough for me to workout at off-peak times).

Overall, we're really happy with Equinox, and feel that it's well worth the price. There are clubs in several cities (2 in the Miami area, where my in-laws live), which is an added bonus when/if we travel. This certainly isn't an expansive comparison of gyms...just our personal experience. I have girlfriends that LOVE the classes and atmosphere at David Barton Gym and friends that are happy with New York Health & Racquet (I hear the new one on Park Ave. is super nice). Overall, cost and location should be your main decision factors, as well as your needs (you're 'no frills' and just need some cardio and basic weight equipment VS. a class junkie). That being said, if you can swing it, it's usually a nice mix of people (not just yuppies and 'trophy wives' like some accounts would lead you to believe).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

wordlock padlock

I never lose anything. Seriously. I once lost a credit card in my dorm room, only to find, at the end of the year, hiding behind my desk. And most recently, my padlock at the gym. It's probably for the best...I'm constantly forgetting the combination (saving it in my email and always writing it on my hand, hoping it won't fade away by the end of my workout). Am I the only one who is terrible at remembering these things? I was that girl in high school who would have to visit the office at least once a week for my forgotten combination. But I digress...

I spotted the Wordlock Padlock on a locker and knew it was the perfect solution...words are much easier to recall than a random series of numbers. Always looking for a deal, my first stops were ebay and amazon. Hilariously, there is an ebay seller listing these locks for $1 plus free shipping...the catch is that none of these locks actually work. Ridiculous! Needless to say, neither of my usual sources for deals came through.

I finally found it through Full price is $9.79 for 3 colors (red, pink, black), but the silver is on sale for $4.88. Strangely, a promotional credit of $4.88 was applied to the order at checkout. You read that right...the subtotal for this lock was $0. I ended up paying $5.75 for tax+shipping, which pained me, but still ended up being the cheapest overall price for this lock.

Monday, January 3, 2011

review: warby parker glasses

This year ended much like 2009 - we had leftover FSA money and no need for 40 bottles of Tylenol and Advil. The repeat solution - buy new glasses! Last year I bought a pair of Dolce & Gabbana glasses that were pretty cool in theory...thick rimmed and tortoiseshell-colored, but for some reason I developed headaches whenever I wore them. I also felt like they were just a little too big for my face. Needless to say, when the chance to get a new pair arose at the end of 2010, I jumped at the chance.

I had read about Warby Parker and thought the deal sounded too good to be true - each and every pair of glasses was $95. These weren't cheap-looking, flimsy glasses either...they looked hip and had available frames for a variety of face shapes. The website is super helpful in choosing frames, giving detailed measurements and allowing you to 'virtually' try on glasses after uploading a photo of yourself. If you're still undecided, you can have 5 frames sent to you for free to try on...amazing! Warby Parker's headquarters is in Union Square, NYC, and you can schedule an appointment to visit the studio and try on frames. Buying glasses is usually a crippling few hours of indecisiveness, so I booked a Saturday appointment.

Husband and I were welcomed into the studio with hot chocolate and cookies. Each appointment is allotted about 30 minutes, but they give you as much time as you need (with zero pressure). The selection is varied, but not too expansive, so it doesn't take long to narrow down your selections. In the end, I was torn between 2 styles and bought both! Completed the transaction in their studio, and received the frames less then a week later.

They came packaged in simple, chic boxes and include cases with cleaning cloths. Warby Parker doesn't adjust frames for you, but most places will do a free adjustment.

Aubrey frame

Bottom line: The glasses are cheap but the quality isn't. These are chic, well-made glasses that can easily be mistaken for 'designer.' The customer service is great, and perhaps the best part is that the company works with non-profit organizations to donate a pair of glasses for every pair they sell. Now that's a policy I can definitely support!