Pinterest problem
July 27, 2012

Normal people use Pinterest for inspiration. They collect unatainable luxury on their computer screens, curate the materialistic urges they know they’ll never act on.

Me? I buy that shit. All of it.

Seriously, everything I pin is like a personal challenge: how fast can I get this into my online shopping cart and onto my credit card statement? I’ve purchased seven varieties of riding boots, four potential rehearsal dinner dresses, eight kinds of hooks for our entry-way, all thanks to the aggregative powers of Pinterest. I didn’t make inspiration boards – whatever the fuck that means – for our wedding on Pinterest, I made  a long list of crap to buy with helpful illustrations. Pinterest: the most dangerous thing to happen to Japs since Juicy jumpsuits.

So you best believe that when I pinned this Austin Kleon print, it meant that within 5 hours that shit was on its way to my apartment.

So worth it though. Beautiful poetry from the business section of the newspaper? Who would have thought.

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shoe spectacle
July 26, 2012

Every day at around 5:15 p.m., I head over to my friend B.’s desk at work so that she can see what I’m rocking.

Here are the usual suspects:

-beat up Rainbows

-metallic Sperry loafers (aka Instruments of Torture)

-dowdy old lady Cole Haan Mary Janes

My commuting footwear uniform used to be simple – Rainbowswhen it was hot, and the same brown Banana riding boots when it turned cold. But last year’s sad excuse for a winter meant I got used to trotting around in much more comely flats (black patent leather, gold lame, or the ever popular silver sparkles) wherever I went, toe cleavage happily exposed to the mild temperatures.

Now the fairer season has arrived, and I’ve gotten spoiled. My Rainbows- heels worn down from impact, left strap deemed delicious by my parents’  puppy, soles starting to split open down the front like an opened crocodile mouth – suddenly seem too Californian, too grungy, too informal for New York. I’m sick of washing the city streets off my exposed feet before bed. I wake up with pounding ankles and shins, the various pieces of my legs screaming after a routine jaunt from the West Village to Union Square and back uptown again.

Oh yes, have I mentioned that I routinely walk 4, 6, 8 miles a day? I should probably posture and say I’m worried about carbon emissions or pretend it’s part of a dedicated organic locavore vegan lifestyle I’ve cultivated, but the truth is, I just have a puppy and a disdain for crowded subways and fierce hatred of the gym, coupled with an intense interest in donuts. The donuts are probably the biggest priority.

So walking it is.

I decided that my feet are essentially my automobile, and if suburbanites are shelling out for car insurance and those in the outer boroughs are shelling out for monthly Metrocards, it’s only right to treat myself to some decently supportive shoes.

So I shelled out for the Sperry’s.

And it was a fucking bloodbath.

I spent weeks trying to break them in, sacrificing boxes of band-aids in the process. I shelled out an absurd amount of money on various forms of specialized blister relief, prodded and plied those shoes with gel pads and inserts galore, googled “break in Sperry’s help!”

And still, I bled. All over those preppy metallic shoes.

B. was mystified — she had had success with Sperry’s, said they were her most comfortable and favorite shoe. That’s when I started giving her daily progress reports on my footwear.

Next up were the Mary Jane’s. B. agreed they were thoroughly unattractive, but pointed out their better attributes: well-made, well-cushioned, classic black so as to maybe look slightly less like something an orthopedist would prescribe an octogenarian. I sighed but slogged on in them, deciding it wasn’t worth a stress fracture to look slightly more stylish.

And then, probably as punishment for my complaining about their looks, the Mary Janes started acting up. Jabbing and rubbing in all the wrong places, spiting me for deeming them “comfort shoes.”

I was not about to tolerate a pair of ugly shoes giving me blisters, that’s for sure.

I wish I could tell you that I just said fuck it, bought a pair of Louboutins, and started taking cabs. But what really happened is a turn I never thought my life would take, surely one of the most pathetic moments of my womanhood. Yesterday, I sheepishly walked over to B.’s desk for the evening report. I was wearing my good skinny white jeans, a navy striped silk tunic and pearl earrings.

And on my feet were a pair of full-out, balls to the wall, laces-and-everything sneakers. My version of a white flag.

Our entire row of coworkers cracked up.

satin and sashes and sequins, oh my!
February 22, 2011

My friend Evan made fun of me the other day, wondering if it was going to be all puppies and weddings, all the time around here from now on. This, naturally, made me feel like I should write more about puppies and weddings, just to piss him off. (I’m mature like that.)

Fortunately, I found my wedding dress this past weekend, giving me plenty of opportunity to add some more crinoline and cap sleeves to the mix around here. Phew, right?

We’ll start out with an embarrassing confession: I’m totally one of those girls who has been dreaming of her wedding dress since the third grade. But I always added my own fun Rachel (read: cynical, depressing, pessimistic) twist to it. I would flip through bridal magazines, folding down page corners and dreaming of dresses, all the while convinced that by the time my turn to get married actually arrived, we’d all be wearing spacesuits. (Seriously.) Just my luck that tulle would be out and oxygen-filled helmets would be in by the time I finally nabbed a husband, right?

As a result, I felt especially lucky in August to discover that a- I had found my life partner and b- wearing a dress was still a socially acceptable way to celebrate one’s marriage.

I decided I was going to make the most of the situation and immediately launched a massive wedding dress search, just in case full skirts suddenly went out of style in the 20 months (like, could we wait any longer?) before our wedding. I combed designer’s websites and blogs. I DVR’ed Say Yes to the Dress. And, a few months ago, I made appointments for a wedding dress shopping President’s Day weekend extravaganza, carefully plotting my route across Manhattan with seven stops along the way.

So off we went on Saturday, first to a designer’s showroom, with tall ceiling and fabulous lighting and enough space for a runway show (because, duh, that’s where they have them.) We did Vera. We did Amsale. We did a boutique in a little West Village townhouse filled with vintage-inspired dresses and Anthropologie-esque accessories. (Yes, I know they have their own wedding line now. No, I don’t want to talk about it.)

I sorted through racks of samples in a cramped, over-heated second-floor room until my arms hurt and I was forced to surrender, bested by dozens of gowns with the right price but the wrong style. I inadvertently showed many, many bridal consultants my boobs. I got some dirty looks at Kleinfeld’s, where I screamed out in the middle of the main room, “Randy, I found my dress!” only to have the very gay and very orange fashion director come over to give me a hug. (Guess he didn’t get my half-mocking tone?) And then I went to Saks, where, for the third and final time, I found the same dress – my dress – as well as the place where I wanted to purchase it.

Yes, I love it. Yes, it’s very pretty. Yes, it has tulle – but not too much, I promise.

Finding my dress was pretty cool, of course, but the weekend was magical in a way I hadn’t expected, and it had very little to do with all the organza and lace. It had more to do with the bottle of prosecco we split at the Carlyle and the brunch we giggled over at Sarabeth’s and the company of the girls who helped me shop for my prom dresses and my dresses for my brothers’ bar mitzvahs, and in the case of one companion who dates back to my middle school art class, my very own bat mitzvah dress, thirteen years ago.

I was lucky enough to have my mom and my future mother-in-law there to ooh and aah as well, and to have my mother’s best friend tear up at a little shop in Connecticut back in October and to have my cousin critique mermaid versus sheath at a designer’s store in the East Village over a long weekend and to have all of my college friends give feedback on my favorite Christos gowns in November, with a late lunch at Bloomies right afterwards. Yeah, I probably did more dress shopping than I had to. But with company that lovely, I bet you would too.

(On a more-practical-more-honest-less-rose-colored-glasses note, I should admit that I also wanted to spread the pain of my dress shopping addiction around, so that no one person was forced to watch me try on the same flower-embellished cap-sleeved gown more than a few times. I know your limits, people.)

But now my wedding dress shopping extravagaza- which was really more like six months than one weekend – has come and gone, and I’m here, feeling a little funny. Because while I’m still super excited about that guy I’m about to be betrothed too, I think the best part of wedding planning so far has been seeing all my friends, now spread state to state and coast to coast, all of us always busy and driven and focused, come together for an afternoon here or a weekend there. It makes me think we should do this all the time – with less tulle, maybe; but the same girls.

Fingers crossed for New York.

Evan, you can skip this one
November 16, 2010

My mother has a habit of recommending articles to me that read like warning signs, so I wasn’t exactly surprised when last year, in the throes of my momentary preoccupation with rings of the left-handed variety, she sent this New York Times column my way.

The piece, published under the Modern Love heading, is about a woman who becomes a little overly invested in and reliant on material possessions, namely those listed on her wedding registry, and ends up ultimately losing the thing that inspired the gifts in the first place: her marriage.

Unlike some of my mother’s previous PSA pass-alongs, this one was surprisingly well-written: textured and funny and real, peppered with anecdotes that made me nod in recognition and, admittedly, fear slightly for the health of my own as-yet-unformalized marriage plans. I tucked the cautionary message away in the back of my mind, flagged it with a “deal with this when you finally get a ring” internal post-it. The message to self was clear: Try, oh lover of shopping, not to give in to your retail-obsessed tendencies when you should be focused on your relationship.

At first, it seemed like I wouldn’t have too much trouble taking this advice. The first time I sauntered into Bloomingdales in search of the perfect food processor for our new life together, I emerged an overwhelmed and exhausted wreck ready to pay someone, anyone to just select the optimal blender model for my imaginary kitchen of the future (because lord knows our current one can’t hold any more crap) and get on with it already.

I, the girl who usually feels more comfortable in department stores than her own bedroom, was apparently not cut out for registering. I hated the pace of it (slow and plodding), hated all the choices (I have to pick a brand of knives and a line? Seriously?) I decided against fine china, scoffed at the $125 picture frames, pared my list down to the bare necessities. My mother had to implore me to select a few serving bowls. I was most definitely not into it.

By the time we ventured to Williams Sonoma, to tackle the gritty kitchen supply section of my wish list, I was feeling slightly better about the whole thing. This place was smaller, with fewer crystal displays to get lost in, and free mulled apple cider. Always one to be wooed by food samples, I relaxed a bit, and even allowed myself to fall the tiniest bit in love with a removable-bottom tart pan. The sparer displays allowed me to catch glimpses of things I could actually identify, and, I reasoned, perhaps one day find room in my homewares-adoring heart to love. Wasn’t that the seltzer system Dave wanted me to buy last month? Weren’t those the fun stemless wine glasses my friend set her dinner table with last week? Did that Le Creuset dutch oven come in blue? (Answer: Yes, yes, and  yes — with a matching trivet to boot!)

Zap, zap, zap — onto the registry list they all went.

It’s no secret that many aspects of my life feel a little out of control right now. I’ve been forced to place all my faith in a computer system that will tell me where to live and, as a result, what to do, in T minus four months from tomorrow. My career path is starting to feel less and less like the paved roads and smooth trajectories all my friends seem to have built for themselves, and more like it was carved by a blind guy wandering aimlessly through a dense forest with a machete.

I feel a little lost about a lot of things, but I can guarantee, with a comparatively high amount of accuracy, what color dinner plate will be sitting on my table come 2012. And even though my mother and the article and common sense tell me otherwise, I’m choosing to cling to that dinner plate, just for the moment. I’m scrolling daily through my online lists; I’m adding candlesticks and mother-of-pearl serving trays and yes, even that $125 picture frame; I’m rejoicing at the news that someone bought me that food processor.

Yes, the marriage is what matters; yes, china is cold comfort. But it’s comfort I’m going to let myself indulge in, just for a little while.

characteristically convinced
November 9, 2010

I am the proud – and slightly guilt-plagued – new owner of a very large, very gorgeous handbag.

It happened so quickly, I almost didn’t realize what was going on. I mean, I suppose I did consciously agree to go to the outlets, showed up there on a Saturday afternoon out of my own volition. But plunking down several hundred dollars on yet another piece of leather to be slung over my arm was certainly not a pre-meditated act. One minute, I was sifting through the Banana Republic sale racks, stocking up on my favorite camisoles – reduced to $9.99! – and the next, I was in Kate Spade, clutching two massive bags to my chest, mesmerized by the shiny hardware, soft handles, and split inside pocket, lined with polka dots.

As I stood there in front of the mirror, modeling the two bags, I asked myself just one question. It was not, “Can you, Meagerly-Paid Reporter Rachel, afford this?” It was not, “Food for a month or a new receptacle for your Kate Spade wallet?” (Which, in my defense, is obviously very lonely amongst my collection of Coach purses. I remain convinced that even leather accessories feel the pain of being the odd one out.)

But no, it was this, very important, all-consuming quandary: “classic black pebbled leather or a very sparkly gold lamé?”

And there was only one very practical, mature answer.

I went with the sparkly one, obviously.

I fully blame the entire thing on my best friend, Megan, she who drove us to the outlets in the first place. A champion discount shopper with myriad credentials – voted best dressed in high school, is somehow able to employ a AAA discount that involves getting special documentation signed at something called the Outlet Management Office (I didn’t even know such a mythical place existed) – Megan is my most trusted shopping partner.

Which is why when she oohed and aahed, I just couldn’t say no.

This is a recurring theme in my life, the being easily swayed by those around me. The tendency to agree to things that are probably not in my (or my budget’s, or my college transcript’s) best interest  has actually picked up speed as I’ve gotten older. From middle school food fights to pricey purses to that time I was talked into running my school newspaper for a year, I’m just really susceptible to peer pressure.

And, at the moment, outlet shopping actually appears to be the least of my problems where this topic is concerned.

Have I mentioned I’m planning a wedding?

At first, my tendency to absorb the preferences of others actually started working to my parents’ favor. Early on in the wedding planning process (read: before I was engaged) I discovered the world of Indie wedding blogs and budget party planning. And I fell, hard. I was all, I can totally whip up my own three-tier wedding cake! And build our chuppah out of salvaged tree branches! And buy our alcohol from BJ’s!

Did I mention I was initially intent on getting married in the small plot of land across from my parents’ house? Never mind that their actual property isn’t big enough to have a backyard wedding — I was going to make it work!

Until, that is, a friend handed me a copy of Town & Country Weddings. The glossy cover immediately lured me in, and, with that first turn of the page, I was hooked. Suddenly, it was out with the sample dresses and in with the designer gowns…and then in with the $20,000 celebrity photographer and the special-order swiss dot tablecloths and dozens of other details that had never before crossed my mind. Two weeks earlier I hadn’t known a pomander from a charger; now I desperately (and immediately) needed a dozen of the former to line the walk to our venue and a dozen of the latter to create the perfect place settings for our tables (to be set with gold chivary chairs, obv.) I had swiftly and completely crossed over to the dark side.

Fortunately, I have neither a trust fund nor unbridled access to my parents’ credit cards, so this dream luxe wedding of mine (and the dream budget wedding before that) was unable to materialize instantaneously. And, unlike the bag buying splurge last month or the eleventh-hour newspaper election plans of 2005, I have one important factor on my peer-pressure-prone side this time: time. I have time to sit down and talk it through and hopefully ride out my swinging pendulum of wedding desires, ultimately settling on something in the middle – halfway between shabby and chic – that betters suits both our personalities and our budget.

The win, once again, goes to April 2012.

hoarding: buried alive, in tasteless turn-of-the-century garb
November 1, 2010

I’m starting to suspect I’m a hoarder.

I was in denial through several episodes of the eponymous show, shaking my head at the characters on the screen and thinking, “those sad, poor people,” never pausing to think about what the inside of my own closet looks like.

But I’ve finally started to run out of room  in our little fourth-floor walkup, which, while sunny and open, totally lacks storage space, or at least enough for this collector of wool J. Crew sweaters from the last five Christmases.

Like, seriously. Did I really need that crew neck in pink and pink argyle?

Of course, the question at hand is do I really need that in pink and pink argyle? Because, the time is now, people! I’m currently in the process of swapping my winter and summer clothes into and out of storage, making it the perfect opportunity to play survivor with my long sleeved black shirts (of which there are like fourteen.)

Unfortunately, I remain kind of stalled, frozen by the possibilities and patterns and petite sizes before me. I’m stuck in a sea of Maybes.

Like, Maybe I’ll lose 20 pounds and look great in that artifact from my thin high school days. Or Maybe I’ll gain twenty pounds and look great in that artifact from my heftier college days. Maybe I’ll start working out more than once a century and have a need for all those T-shirts. Maybe one day I’ll get a job where I can’t wear my pajamas until 3 p.m. everyday (the horror.) But you just never know! Can one ever be too prepared when it comes to one’s wardrobe?

Answer: Yes, when you live in an apartment with two, well, closet-sized closets.

There are a few other Maybes haunting me too (Maybe flared pants will come back into fashion and those purple bedazzled cords I scored at Abercrombie in 2001 will suddenly be totally chic; Maybe one day I will break my life-long habit of having to wear my outfit-of-the-moment four times a week.) But the biggest Maybe is this: What if that white satin belt with the massive bow on the side/that asymetrical-hemmed, skin-colored swiss dot skirt/some other obscure piece scrunched in the back of my dresser actually is the key to some amazing future outfit I just haven’t had the good sense to dream up yet? What if, one day, I’m getting dressed for an occasion that requires me to leave my house, and all I need to Complete The Look is that tight black T-shirt with the giant pink Polo logo on it? Ignore the fact that that would obviously be a very fucked up day — it could still happen! Who knows what the style gods will bring in the 2010s?

In other words: what if I finally have a chance at being crowned best-dressed – instead of Most Accident Prone and Most Stressed Out, like I actually ended up winning during our high school senior superlatives – in real life?

It’s too much pressure, too much possibility. It crushes any resolve I once had to take that pile of too-short jeans to Goodwill. And it also…stresses me out.

Just like all my high school peers predicted.

what I’ve been up to
June 30, 2010

brunching and lunching and dining and wining, with a cocktail or two thrown in for good measure; persuading my mom that a 9:30 dinner reservation really isn’t that late; sifting through the lovely little Midtown shops that line 13th street, on the hunt for all the perfect birthday and bachelorette and wedding presents I so desperately need to find; wandering around this city in my flip flops with Lisztomenia buzzing in my ears; trying, and failing, to make baked french toast – and fleeing to Jones instead; trying, and failing, to remember the cereal mascots of my childhood during a heated game of Quizzo; writing, writing, writing…for the day job; admiring my byline in that national newspaper that sometimes allows me to grace their pages; catching up on Top Chef and Entourage and, though I’m ashamed to admit it, Bethenny Getting Married? (sometimes I think Bravo put the question mark there specifically to communicate my incredulousness at the fact that I actually continue to watch this shit); stocking up on all the veggies I forbade myself from eating in South America; riding out the heat wave with bottles and bottles of raspberry lime seltzer; trying to pretend I didn’t just see that cockroach crawl across my kitchen floor; trying to pretend I’m not jealous of the fact that Dave’s lying on a Hawaiian beach right now; trying on clothes I can’t afford (so that’s how a $400 dress fits); trying to enjoy my time alone instead of counting down the hours until his return; planning a few surprises; reminiscing about our move-in, almost exactly one year ago; loving this season so very much.

girly girl
May 22, 2010

I fear I may have single-handedly sent feminism back a decade or two today, as my Saturday has literally been one big fat gender stereotype.

With Dave off smoking cigars and riding rollercoasters with a college buddy (the women’s studies minor in you is cringing already, I know), I opted to stay home and indulge some of my more embarrassing interests.

Like, watching old Sex and the City episodes. And new Say Yes to the Dress episodes. And yes, my behavior disgusts me too.

Other items on the agenda included pedicures, shopping, talking far too seriously about the virtues of petite sizing and taking up important questions like, how many ruffles are too many ruffles when it comes to work dresses?

And then there was the nesting.


I insisted on buying this adorable salt and pepper shaker and sugar bowl set (top right and lower left) that seriously looks like it belongs in a dollhouse and is guaranteed to be useful for absolutely nada, especially considering we already have a salt shaker/pepper grinder combo three times the size currently sitting on our kitchen table. Still, I couldn’t stop cradling it in my palm and I’ve had an Anthro store credit burning a hole in my wallet for the past month so…voila. Home it came. Along with a few other chochkis I intend on using both as storage for q-tips and cotton balls and as a daily reminder that I’m closer to becoming my grandmother each and every day.

After unwrapping my little treasures, I sat back and admired the throw pillows I ordered online last week. Because by that point, I was on a roll.

Which means I might as well own up to the baking too. I made banana pancakes for Jill and myself this morning and then whipped up a batch of these ridiculously easy blondies, adding some dried cherries and slivered almonds, in preparation for a barbeque tomorrow.


At least I finally have people to bake for, right? Life is good…if a bit cliche.


a tad obsessed
May 12, 2010

Coming clean about my latest girl crush ended up totally backfiring on me, as I seem to have somehow spent the entire day thoroughly stalking Vera Mindy Chokalingam online. I’d done some research on her before, to be sure, but I think I crossed some sort of line today, between the googling and the clip watching and the wikipedia reading. I now know the name of her boyfriend, the name of her high school, the name of the award-winning play in which she starred as Ben Affleck two years after graduating from the Big Green.

Unsurprisingly, most of the things I discovered about my new favorite IAP (sorry, Amu) just made me swoon even more. Like that she wrote my favorite Office episode ever, and worked for the Dartmouth paper (coincidentally titled, The Dartmouth) once upon a time. I was even charmed by the fact that she admitted on her very public (and fabulous) shopping blog to having oily skin, and getting pimples and UTIs. I know, that shit should totally just gross me out, but by that point I was going through her 2006 archives post by post, clearly in way too deep to not be oddly intrigued and comforted by her urinary issues. Like, wow, I’ve had a UTI too. One more thing in common with Mindy Kaling! (FML.)

Of course, this was all leading up to a predictable end. My online obsessions always follow the same tell-tale course: (1) fascination, (2) recognition (that’s how I feel about EMS too! what are the odds?), (3) obsession and then, ultimately, (4) depression, whereupon I realize that a – I am not, in fact, Mindy Kaling and b- I am not, in fact, friends with Mindy Kaling. And never will be.

And then I feel bad about myself. Does this happen to anyone else? I’ve always been a big compare-myself-to-others kind of girl, but I feel like this unfortunate personality trait has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Probably because now, people who are easily comparable to me (in age, education, etc.) actually are doing really cool shit, as opposed to just like making it past the second round of sorority rush or winning a spot on the JV soccer team. The nerve!

I don’t have the heart to insert a corny, uplifting paragraph here about how if I set my mind to it, I can do anything, and I shouldn’t be concerned with others and blah blah blah, because, let’s face it, no matter how hard I wish it, I will never be Mindy Kaling. But I guess the truth is that all I can really do is be me and hope for the best. And while I’m fairly confident an Office writing gig probably isn’t in my future, the shopping? Oh, Mindy. In that field, I can totally hold my own.

Anthro + puppies = Dave’s worst nightmare
March 4, 2010

This…

…is a recipe for disaster.

But I’m going anyway. Just to look, of course.