As I mentioned in a recent post, this summer was one of a bit of…excess.
This was true when it came to eating and drinking, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that it also meant spending more than I normally do. I mean, I think it’s fairly common (there’s a lot more going on in the summer generally…now we’ll go back to hibernating), but it still means that now I’m looking for as many ways to save as I can for the next few months.
For me, one of the first things to go are my favorite girly habits. (I swear I’ve blogged about something like this before, but I just searched for about ten minutes and couldn’t find the post.) I’ve started doing my own nails (even procuring a little cuticle trimmer in the hopes that I’ll eventually stop picking at mine), and I’ve been seeking out cheaper ways to maintain my hair color.
As I’ve said before, it is expensive being blonde in New York City. Like, whoa. Since a full highlight can be equivalent to a car payment, anything I can do to stretch the time in between is super helpful.
Which is why I was pretty thrilled to discover these two products.
Seriously, you guys. Life. Changing.
The first one is John Frieda’s Sheer Blonde Go Blonder Lightening Spray. (Say that five times fast.) You spray it on your hair (I usually just do the roots) when it’s wet, then either hang out in the sun or simply blow dry. The heat makes the product work it’s magic.
I was a little nervous to try it initially because of a scarring Sun-In experience my brother had when I was a child (I’m a good sister, so I’m not admitting which brother), but the lightening is really gradual and natural-looking. In fact, I’ve had about six people ask me if I had just gotten my hair done since in the last couple of weeks of using it.
That’s a win, folks.
The second product is an even faster quick-fix. I actually discovered it on accident on my way to work one morning. I realized a little too late that I maybe should have washed my hair the night before (whatever, you all know I’ve gone longer without washing my hair) and ducked into a drug store to buy some dry shampoo. When I spotted Jonathan Product Root Touch Up and it promised not only to soak up excess oil but also to hide roots, I was very interested.
And, you guys. It works SO well. Here’s me before using it:
And here’s me after:
So that’s how I fight the fade on a fixed income. Any other secrets out there I should know about?
We never really had an official housewarming to celebrate our new apartment. (Probably has something to do with the fact that we only very recently got the apartment in company-ready order.) So a few weeks ago, Joey and I decided to throw a Mad Men-themed housewarming — because what says domesticity quite like Mad Men, right?
The party was a roaring success (if I do say so myself), so I figured I’d share. Here’s a breakdown of how to decorate, what to eat and drink, and what to wear for a Mad Men housewarming party.
How I decorated:
It will probably shock you to learn that I didn’t really start prepping anything for the party before the day-of. I know — so unlike me. But while I had been thinking about the details, I didn’t even clean the place until the morning of the party.
Fortunately, I was able to score a bunch of free party decorations from work, visible in the picture above. (Get your own MarthaCelebrations here.)
We also played Mad Men episodes on Netflix in the background and played ’50s/’60s music for a little ambience.
What we wore:
Since I have pretty stylish friends, I wasn’t too worried about decorating because I figured their ensembles will fill out the look of the room. They didn’t disappoint.
My dress is from Etsy a couple of years ago. I’d originally planned on wearing my hair half down/half teased up (a la Brigitte Bardot), but it was mildly sweltering that night, so I opted for a ballerina bun instead. (Tutorial to come.)
What we drank:
Because I prefer all my celebrations with champagne, I decided to set up a champagne cocktail bar in the kitchen. Here were the recipes:
The Sterling 75
1 splash gin
1 splash St. Germaine (or other elderflower liqueur)
Fill the rest of the glass with chilled champagne or proseco. Add ice.
The Mad Mojito
For the mojito:
Muddled mint (about 1 1/2 cups) & limes (6-7 sliced)
2 cups light rum
3/4 cup simple syrup
Combine mojito ingredients ahead of time and let sit in the fridge for an hour before serving. For the Mad Mojito, fill half the glass with mojito mixture and the fill the rest of the way with chilled champagne or prosecco. Add ice.
The Don Draper
1 splash cognac
1 splash Grand Marnier
Fill the rest of the glass with chilled champagne or prosecco.
What we ate:
In keeping with the theme, I served only 1950s-style foods. There were pigs ‘n a blanket, cheese and crackers, shrimp cocktail (provided by my lovely friend Ashli), a mocha pie (from my other lovely friend Natalie), and a deviled egg tasting (inspired by the appetizer at The House. Here’s how I made the eggs:
Bacon & (Deviled) Eggs
Combine 6 hardboiled egg yolks with 1/2 cup mayo and 1/4 cup mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Fill halved hard-boiled egg whites with yolk mixture. Top with chopped bacon bits. (I used turkey bacon. As far as I know, no one could tell the difference.)
Sriracha Deviled Eggs
Combine 6 hardboiled egg yolks with 1/4 cup mayo, 1/4 cup mustard, and 2-4 T Sriracha sauce. Add juice from one lime.
Fill halved hard-boiled egg whites with yolk mixture. Top with a sprinkle of paprika.
Fancy Deviled Eggs
Combine 6 hardboiled egg yolks with 1/2 cup mayo and 1/4 cup mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Fill halved hard-boiled egg whites with yolk mixture. Top with a dollop of low-fat sour cream and a small scoop of black caviar. Because we fancy like that.
And that’s really it! We also gave out a prize to the best costume, which went to my friend Ashli (who in all honestly is ready for a Mad Men party at any given moment).
Anyone else as obsessed with theme parties like me?
Y’all know I love a good mood board. (Even though I kind of hate the term “mood board.”)
So when a dude friend of mine reached out to be recently and asked for tips on decorating his new apartment, my response was “I HAVE SO MANY IDEAS.”
Because while I love a super feminine space, I also love decorating for dudes. Because, to me, it’s not that different from dressing dudes. And who doesn’t love that?
In fact, both of the mood boards I ended up creating for my friends (who has asked to remain nameless for now) started with a guy’s outfit I loved on Pinterest.
Let’s start with my recommendations for a TV room.
All my friend (who I’m just going to call Anthony because “my friend” gets creepy after a while) told me he wanted was “something in the brown” family that was “masculine” and had a lot of “white”.
So…basically not helpful at all. He dug the above design, though, so everyone wins.
Next, he needed a bedroom. Again, there was minimal direction beyond the fact that he liked “blue…like Yankee blue” and that he needed a place to store a sizable shoe collection.
Again, I turned to some of my favorite guy outfits with blue for a color palette.
And yes, I’m aware I accidentally put a bath mat in there. The point is = navy rug. Make it happen.
So there you have it! I’m pretty pleased with both rooms, and Anthony seems to like them as well.
Now if only I could get my own bedroom in order, we’d be in business.
My mom is pretty great.
In the last couple of years, she’s dealt with the stress of marrying off two of her children, the addition of multiple grandchildren, and being diagnosed (and beating) cancer.
Like I said, a pretty awesome lady.
So a few months ago, I decided I wanted to do something nice for her. I thought about flying us both somewhere, but ultimately decided I couldn’t afford it. Then I remembered I live in a destination city. Why not just fly her here and have a little “stay-cation”? (For me at least.)
That’s exactly what I decided to do.
With my dad ensuring she didn’t make plans on the weekend I had in mind, I set out making reservations, buying show tickets, and generally planning the ultimate NYC weekend for my momma.
A week and a half ago, I sent her a package of five envelopes:
As she opened each envelope, she found a clue as to what her surprise was. (Spoiler: It was that she was coming to New York. Have you really not been paying attention?)(yuk yuk yuk)
Once she got the packages, we only had to wait a few days before her visit. And now I’ve decided to share our weekend with you! Here’s where we stayed, what we ate, and what we did.
FridayMy mom got in on Friday around noon. Joey and I both took the day off to pick her up and keep her entertained.
That night, we headed into the city for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, The Smith.
Fun side note: The Smith is actually where I first heard of my favorite drink, the French 75. So obviously it’s near and dear to my heart.
My mom had the trout, I had grilled shrimp with jalapeno grits (AMAZING), and Joey had the moule frites. It was all pretty great. We ended the night with the Quarter Pounders, three homemade chocolate chip cookies. If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that there is nothing in the world I would prefer to warm chocolate chip cookies. So…yeah. I liked the dessert.
Saturday I had planned the New York-iest day I could think of for my mom. We started out by heading in to the city early in the morning. After dropping off our luggage at our hotel (more on that later), we headed to Union Square. After a quick breakfast (at Panera…not every meal can be fancy!), we took part in a little retail therapy.
I mean, is it really our fault that our first appointment was on 5th Avenue? No, no it is not.
Next, we headed to Bloomingdales (because why not more shopping?), and then headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner.
We stayed at The Sanctuary Hotel, which was conveniently located near Times Square. The rooms were…compact, but not in a way that felt claustrophobic. More like, in a way that made you feel like you were in a well appointed New York City studio.
Post-primping, we hopped in a cab to dinner at The House, a restored 1854 carriage house in Gramercy Park. We started off with drinks (I had The Ellington, my mom had a gin martini) and a deviled egg tasting appetizer, followed with the tile fish and the sea scallops. For dessert, we had a cookie sundae topped with fresh berries.
And, you guys. It was so good. Like, ridiculous. We couldn’t stop talking about it.
Then it was time for the highlight of the evening: Newsies!
We both loved it — the singing/dancing is pretty awesome. Plus, the cast is made up of cute, talented boys. Definitely a good choice to take your mom to. (In case you were wondering.)
My mom and mother-in-law had The Three Sisters sandwich, my sister-in-law and father-in-law had burgers (one beef, one kangaroo), Joey had an omelet, and I had a spinach salad with shrimp. We all had mimosas. Because it’s brunch, you guys.
Then it was time to take my mom to the airport. (Sigh.) The weekend was over too fast, but we definitely made the most of it. Can’t wait until we’re together again!
The unofficial theme of my Memorial Day weekend was “the time we ate and drank our way through New York City.” And I have no regrets about that.
Two of my oldest friends visited Joey and I with their significant others, and we spent our time strolling (a fairly rainy) Manhattan and exploring my favorite places (so far) in Queens. These are those stories.
Thursday: Erik and Alison arrived around noon on Thursday. I had to work from home that afternoon, so I sent them off to a nearby bar to unwind until six. When Joey got home, we headed off to the city for dinner at Bocca di Bacco, which my super hip-and-in-the-know co-worker Lauryn had recommended. If you like traditional Italian (I had the Ravolini di Pesce) and extensive wine lists, you will like this place.
Then we sent E+A off to see Once, which, as you may recall, I adore. They ended up getting drinks in the city and then heading back to our apartment.
Friday: The next day, Joey and I had both taken off from work, so we started the morning with brunch at my favorite breakfast spot in Astoria, Queens Comfort. It was predictably delicious. (Word to the wise: Get the tater tots. If you’re feeling especially crazy, get the Disco Tots. You will thank me.)
Next, we headed into the city for a few touristy things (it was Allison’s first time to New York), including a peek at the park, a stop in Grand Central, and some serious window-shopping on 5th avenue. We tried to get into the MOMA during the free hours, but a line around the block combined with seriously unpleasant weather deterred us.
Then it was time to head back to Queens. We grabbed a quick snack at Martha’s Country Bakery (AMAZING…I usually get a chocolate chip cookie or cannoli, but Joey swears by every flavor of their cheesecake) to revive us before we went to pick up Annie and Al from the airport.
Once we had acquired an Annie and Al, it was time for dinner! We took everyone to one of our favorite Astoria restaurants, the newly liquor-licensed The Thirsty Koala. (I highly recommend clicking that link if you enjoy photos of adorable things.)
We ordered kangaroo sliders, lamb chops, prawn and steak tacos, crostinis, and a host of other things. Plus, of course, a few drinks to celebrate our reunion.
Saturday: After a few bagels from the Brooklyn Bagel & Coffee Company on our street, we headed back into the city Saturday morning. We visited the 9/11 Memorial (which I had never done) before grabbing some coffee and strolling The High Line. The weather wasn’t great, but the views were still pretty nice.
After a quick dash home to freshen (and warm) up, we returned to the city for dinner at A Voce, another delicious Italian recommendation by Lauryn. I had the pea-stuffed mezzaluna pasta and a Kir Italiano – delish.
After some low-key drinks at The Guilty Goose nearby, we were ready to head home to bed. (Oh, right, we’re kind of old.)
Sunday: For everyone’s last full day in New York, we decided to hit a few more of our favorite Queens spots. We started with an incredible brunch at MexiBBQ (unlimited drinks from noon to three-ish). I had the Eggs Benedict and a mimosa, Joey got the Challah French Toast and a mimosa. No. Regrets.
Next, because the weather was actually nice for once, we were off to the Astoria Beer Garden. There was some kind of celebration going on, so we joined the party with a few pitchers and some flower crowns. As one does.
Afterward, we took a quick group nap before heading to dinner at Watawa, my favorite sushi place near our apartment. (Everything is good.)
Monday: The gang had to roll out around noon, so we grabbed a quick breakfast at Martha’s before heading home to pack. (Total disclosure: Alison and Erik ate at Martha’s no less than three times during their visit. It’s THAT good.)
After dropping everyone off for their flights, Joey and I headed to Astoria Park for a few hours of sunshine (I’m sufficiently pink now) before joining our local friends for a backyard barbecue.
Basically, I got everything I wanted out of the weekend, including time with my oldest friends, a little color, and some really great memories. Can’t wait for our next reunion!
You guys. I don’t want to brag (especially because I know that the second I do, this will stop being true)(rhyme!!!), but I am pretty dang good at Craigslist.
In the last couple of weeks, I have bought and sold about six pieces of furniture, which will make moving easier (sayonara, mammoth china cabinet) and make our new apartment prettier (he-llo, gorgeous leaning bookshelves from Crate & Barrel). Here’s a quick round-up of my favorite success stories:
1. Bar cart from Crate & Barrel
Original price: It’s not on the site anymore, but given the price of similar ones they have listed, I would guess at least $125.
Price paid: $25
We picked this baby up from a chic apartment building in one of the most desirable areas of Brooklyn. (Was the guy we bought it from wealthy? Put it this way: He had a doorman who was exactly what you would get if you combined Arthur and Lucius and who when we said who we were there to see told us to “knock because of the baby.” You know you’ve made it when you have a doorman who knows your personal life despite living in a 15-story building.)
The guy was nice as can be and had two adorable 6-month-old twins. He was obviously just selling the rack because it was easier than throwing it out, and his lack of concern about money was our thrifty gain.
Lesson #1: Try searching by the names of brands you like. I wasn’t actively searching for a bar cart (even though we would need something like this eventually), but searching for “Crate and Barrel” brought me treasure.
2. Black bookshelves from IKEA
Original price: They’re about $90 each on IKEA currently, but I’m pretty sure they were on sale when my roommates and I bought two of them almost four years ago.
Sold for: $90 for both, including delivery.
I listed these at $40 each, but a woman offered me $70 for them both and I took it. (I am always willing to engage in a reasonable haggle.) When she came to pick them up, though, she only had a small car and they didn’t fit. I offered to drop them off at her house the next day, and she threw in an extra $20. Win-win.
Lesson #2: Craigslist is supposed to be like a community. So if you’re polite an neighborly, you might end up getting more money than you even planned to charge.
3. Leaning bookshelves from Crate & Barrel
Original price: $130 each
Price paid: I’m getting two for about $100 total.
I wanted to find two slim, ladder-style shelves like the ones at the link above, but I wanted white ones. Target had a version for $80 each, but I really wanted to thrift something and I was confident I could find a better price (and quality) with a little patience.
Then yesterday, I found two sellers that were each selling one white leaning shelf from C&B. I contacted them both and offered each $50 (they were asking for $75 and $100 respectively). Both agreed (one of them actually turned out to be a girl from work who is moving to California…small world), and we picked them up on Wednesday.
Lesson #3: Patience is a virtue. (Although Joey might argue that I’m not that patient. He has asked me to please not buy anymore furniture until after we officially move.)
4. Coral rug
Original price: It’s now listed for over $200, but I paid around $90 because it was on sale and I had a coupon.
Sold for: $60
I was honestly starting to think this rug would be my downfall in terms if my Craigslist success. I’ve been trying to sell it for a couple of months, but people are understandably skeptical of purchasing fabric-based goods on Craigslist. So even though we only really used it for about a month, it was hard to convey just how good of condition it was in on a (sometimes sketchy) website.
I lowered my price and renewed my listing last week without much hope it would sell.
And then — here’s where a choir of angels starts singing — I go an email from a woman who wanted to put it in her kid’s playroom. She haggled a bit, and honestly I was nervous she would turn into one of those Craigslist phantoms that says they want your stuff and then just vanishes into the night. But she didn’t. And she even emailed me for follow-up information because her aunt loved the rug and wanted to see more pictures. And she’s coming to get it on Sunday.
AND I’M THRILLED.
Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid to lower your price. The alternative is just donating the item for free, so any gain is still a gain.
Bonus Lesson #5: Take time with your ad. I always try to write them in a business-like-but-friendly voice. I want shoppers to know I’m legit — a real person who probably takes good care of her stuff.
In the same vein, don’t just post crappy photos you snapped in the dark with your phone camera. It’s just like selling an apartment on Craigslist; clean it up, use good lighting, style it a bit. I always try to include one atmosphere shot of the item in my home (another reason why taking photo tours of your home at its best is a good idea.
So those are the big transactions so far. All I have left to sell is our dining room table and chairs, so hopefully we can move those pretty quickly. Our move-in date is most likely going to be the last week of March, but I just need to get the old table unloaded before April 1st. Wish me luck!
What are come of your favorite Craigslist lessons and tricks?