May 16, 2015

Shopping: pillow inserts


Our brand new throw pillows!

Here you go. You’re welcome! What am I talking about? We hate the throw pillows that came with our sofa. We love our sofa. Hate the pillows. They are mean little things with pokey quills popping out all over. You can’t see them and only know they’re there after they’ve taken some of your blood. Unzip the pillow cover, and there are feathers everywhere. Pulling the pillow out of the cover would be a catastrophic mess. I can just see it. 

This leads me back to why you’re thanking me for I know there are other pokey-haters out there too! After spending weeks researching different kinds of pillow fills from polyester fill to buckwheat seeds, whether to consider pillow protectors and what's the right size to buy, I decided to share what I purchased. 

First, here’s a shout out to the reason why we needed new inserts: Les Indiennes, hand block-printed organic cotton textiles, which uses old-school kalamkari Indian methods to create uber soft fabrics. My favorite part is that they lay out the cotton in India’s intense sun to bleach before printing.


A chance reading about the shop’s outlet in Hudson, New York on a Friday night led to a spontaneous 3-hour family daytrip to the historic town Saturday morning. Outlet items are located at the back of the shop, and my haul included euro shams, pillowcases, dessert plates and four throw pillow covers. 


Check out the textiles and plates we bought at Les Indiennes. I love the rich red and ditsy pattern.


Throw pillow inserts: I loved the idea of the therapeutic qualities of buckwheat pillows but they’re expensive and the process of making my own was beyond my mental capabilities at that point. At the end, Garnet Hill’s inserts were natural, dense and soft with 95% white goose feathers and 5% white goose down with little to no reports of pokey quills. Hooray! And at $18 each for a 18”x18" square, the price was right.

Pillow protectors: I decided to go for an extra layer of protection between me and the sharp quills, and also the down for hypoallergenic reasons. Protectors keep errant feather escapees contained. Pottery Barn’s cotton selection come zippered and are machine washable. Their 230-thread count 18”x18” size is $8 each. 

The general rule for sizing is to buy inserts 1" - 2” larger than the pillowcase. It makes for a plumper and firmer throw pillow.  

Happy lounging. We are!

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April 24, 2015

Everlane: Retail Rebel


I have a friend in the fashion industry who designs accessories for big-name brands. She never buys clothes at retail because she knows better; namely the big mark ups. It does give you pause if you think a full-priced item at $200 might have cost $25 to make.  

Have you heard of the online retailer Everlane? They sell basic clothing items, including silk tops, dresses, tanks, pants and weekender bags and totes. The designs are classic with a casual cool vibe, which includes cashmere. Their whole business philosophy is transparency to the nth degree, and I'm talking about pricing. For each item they sell on their website, they lay all their cards on the table: the story of the manufacturer, why Everlane works with them and trusts them. In an illustration, they reveal the breakdown of how much it cost them to manufacturer, and then how much they marked it up. Also compared is how much it would cost at a traditional retailer.  According to their website, a brick-and-mortar retailer marks up their items 8x.

Here’s an example of Everlane’s cashmere crew from their new spring cashmere collection. 



I find this concept refreshing and intriguing. I do feel less taken advantaged of as a consumer. Is transparency the new black? I hope so.

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April 20, 2015

Hotel Henriette in Paris

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What happens when you want to open an affordable chic hotel in Paris but have a small design budget? A lot of DIY and creativity come together for a bohemian and hip boutique hotel. The next time you’re in Paris, search out Hotel Henriette just south of the Seine in the 13th arrondissement near Les Gobelins metro station.

Designed and owned by Vanessa Scoffier, a former fashion editor, she took a 30-year old hotel and transformed it into a new-vintage-y, 32-room boutique using paint to create unusual architectural angles.  Here, color applications, wallpaper and flea market items, including a gym mat fashioned as a headboard mix artfully with plywood surfaces and stand-out light fixtures.

All this visual stimulation is happy distraction from the tiny footprints in which they dwell.  Room sizes range from 118 square feet (single) to 161 square feet (double twins) to 248 square feet (deluxe double). To accommodate the petite rooms, each one is outfitted with space-saving, two-legged desks.

Room rates start at $74/night for a room for a single occupant to $128/night for a junior suite that fits up to three.

Photography by Herve Goluza and Herve Goluza for Glamour France

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March 13, 2015

Loose Easy Braid



No, this isn’t Zoe and I!  This is from Casey Leigh Wiegand, who I follow on Instagram.  Her images are pretty dreamy.  They really have a sense of calm.  She had been playing around with different kinds of braids and posted this and this one on Instagram.

If I ever had long enough hair, this is how I would do my braid.  It’s messy, not fussy and looks deceptively easy to do.  Thank you, Casey Leigh Wiegand!

  • 1. Part hair down one side. 
  • 2. Run a braid from the top of your head down to the top of your ear.
  • 3. Fasten with bobby pins.
  • 4. Skip down 5-6 inches and begin braiding again.
  • 5. Fasten with a rubber band.

Photo from caseyleighwiegand

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February 22, 2015

Ikea's Paper Shop Collection


If you haven’t been to Ikea lately, you must see their new Paper Shop collection.  Just when you didn't think Ikea could best themselves any more than they have, they've done it again.  I am a paper girl (read: Filofax, pencils and stickies are my thing), and I’m obsessed with their range of wrapping paper, pens, notepads and paper décor to hang from the ceiling.  My faves are the cubes of note paper, and I think I'll use their gift boxes to keep my desk at work organized.  After you take a look at the photos here, drive fast to your nearest Ikea but take care not to speed!





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February 15, 2015

Oh, Backpack


People used to say to me, “Don’t you remember last winter (2013)? It was one of the worse winters we’ve had.”  As hard as I try, I don’t remember.  That’s because I was never forced to step out in inclement weather with my 1.5 year old.  Both of us shielded from the cold and snow entertaining ourselves at home. 

Fast forward to a 2.5 year old who now goes to preschool.  She and I now move among the daily commuters heading to school and work.  She sits in her UPPAbaby stroller, so I can walk at a brisk pace before descending into the subway.  The weather has turned colder, so I purchased Manitoba’s universal rain and wind stroller cover.  It’s a lifesaver, and we call it the “rocketship” so she’ll be excited to crawl in.  More on this cover in another post.  Winter is here, and naturally one anticipates snow.  Here’s my dilemma: I’ve never had to push a stroller in snow before.  Will my UPPAbaby or City Mini go through snow or will she need to walk to school?

I decided that if we’re both walking in one or more feet of snow among fast-moving cars, I need to have both hands free and be as unencumbered by totes and handbags as possible.  I have begun looking into backpacks.  If you’ve read my past post on the subject, you know I have an uneasy relationship with backpacks.  They’re not quite my style yet they are truly functional allowing you to move about freely without the bag-lady chaos or purses falling off shoulders.  

As I searched and scrolled around, I began collecting some that I liked onto a Pinterest board.  My backpack identity is zero, so I wanted to rummage around and figure out what I was most attracted to.  I began to notice a common theme emerge: structural, compact and somewhat tight to the body.  Let’s see what I end up with!

1 Francesco Biasia’s Paradise 2 Yellow flip lock backpack 3 Francesco Biasia’s Miss Sarajevo 4 Freda backpack 5 Sylvie backpack 6 Kelsi Dagger Metro


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February 5, 2015

Hello? Hi there!


Hello?  Hi there!  It’s been a long while, and I’ve so, so missed writing.  I hadn’t had the time to focus on writing, since my last post on September 11.  After some time freelancing, I landed a fantabulous role as the design editor at This Old House magazine.  It’s been a revitalizing and exciting move for me.  I love working on renovation projects, as well as missions, such as our new website dedicated to millennials titled, The Snug.  

So, what has been happening on the life front since my last post?  Here are a few visuals:


Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream - pastry chef opens up his own eggless ice cream shop with flavors like Vietnamese Coffee, Brazilian Bourbon and Durian Banana.



Zoe’s first pumpkin and apple picking excursion at Wilkens



Hiking in Mohonk where we gathered boughs and found baby pinecones.  Before the winter, I bought Zoe a Hawke & Co winter coat.  In the beginning, she would yelp out of nowhere at odd times.  The reason remained a complete mystery to me until I took off the coat, and she looked like a plucked chicken.  She was yelping because the quills were poking her.  Those quill tips are sharp!  This coat shed like this every time we took it off.  A couple coming out of the coat makes sense but 20?  Needless to say, I'm unhappy with this little torture chamber. 





In December, we photographed Kimberlee Paige Hanson’s kitchen for the July issue.  A gorgeous bowl of compost was sitting there when we arrived, and we begged Kimberlee not to toss it; Kimberlee’s weimaraner, Nutmeg asking for attention; a collection of utensils scored at flea markets; and I inadvertently made our stylist, Jennifer Vreeland work on her birthday.



Christmas tree shopping in Florida with a spontaneous frolic in the beach sand


Posted these Chie Mihara Mallard shoes on Ebay

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September 11, 2014

My Sorel Winter Boots





I didn't read all 200-something reviews on the Slimpack but it's hard to believe my size 7 foot is different from anyone else's size 7 foot! 

Last winter, I ordered the Joan of Arctic in a 6.5 after reading that the boot ran big. It was too small but I also thought it was way too clunky and too much boot for me, so it got returned. I decided to order the Slimpack next in a 7 because it had an urban style with its leather shaft yet warm and winterproof. The 7 was still too small! Keep count: this is return #2. I spoke to customer service, and was told different styles were sized differently. Because it was the end of the winter, they ran out of sizes, so I had to wait until the summer when Slimpack was restocked. 

Fast forward to summer 2014, I order Slimpack in 7.5. STILL too small. Really? I also needed someone to help pull them off me. Return #3. I couldn't believe I had to order a size 8 but I did. They came, and they were still too small. Do these sizes go up by centimeters?? I even tried them on with thin socks and I could see my big toe poking through the rubber front. I called customer service because I really needed guidance and counseling because I truly was tired of going to the post office. At this point, I was determined to own a pair of Slimpack boots. She suggested going to a size 9, especially if I was going to wear thick socks. I was worried they would swim on me around the calf. I did order the 9s, and they fit. Let's not forget Return #4, however. So the 9s stay. I can wear thick socks, I can remove the boots on my own, and they aren't over bulky in the calf area. 

Overview: I will love my Slimpacks and use them well in NYC winters. However, I'm hesitant to make another Sorel purchase because I never ever want to return four pairs of footwear again.

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September 9, 2014

Adieu summer


Nothing like an email alert from JetBlue 3am the morning of a family flight bound for a vacation in Florida.  A big storm was threatening, and the airline suggested we change our flights because of possible delays and cancellations.  We decided to head to the airport anyway.  

A Car Service Named Uber

We used the car service, Uber, which utilizes this great phone app: they have your credit card info, so no money or tip is exchanged, you can see the name and photo of your driver, and a little car icon pops up on a map showing them moving through the streets towards their destination.  I noticed there was no carseat in the back when he pulled up, which we had requested through the app. The driver then opens the trunk, pulls out an approximately 18” x 18” compact square, unfolds it, and turns it into a carseat.  No bulky plastic, it attached securely to the seat and held her in tightly.  It was brilliant, and it was called Immi.  It’s only available to the car service industry but the innovation is interesting. 

Getting Some R&R…Not!



Thankfully, the trip out went along without a hitch.  However, vacation with a toddler is what keeps me young and fit.  Let’s face it, I’m burning calories.  The days of sitting still, pondering, dozing, sunning, staring at my pedicure in a lost moment of thought…are gone.  The child website, BabyCenter sends me weekly emails about the developmental stages for my child that I can expect for that particular week.  This week it asked, “What's a reasonable length of time to expect your preschooler to sit still?”  The answer, “A good rule of thumb for normal attention span is three to five minutes per year of age.”  So, that would be an entire 10 minutes. 


Flipbooks and Tattoos



On family vacations, it’s all about the thrill of exposing your child to new stimulation, to see, hear, feel and smell a new environment.  That makes it all worth it.  The kiddie pool was a big hit, the beach sand and tide were not.  Naps were not popular but she loved getting a glitter tattoo and watching the tortoise feeding.  The resort we stayed at hosted a carnival-like event with giant bouncy houses and blow-up slides.  Zoe was too small for these activities but we were first in line for a flipbook, which is the most fun thing in the world.  If you never let your hair down, let it be in front of a 7-second camera with a feather boa and carnival hat.  The only other activity not occupied by the 6+ crowd was the beanbag toss.  Zoe opted to stand over the hole and drop the beanbag in.  She scored 5 out of 5.  Good girl!



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September 5, 2014

Hello Friday...Bits 'n Bobs


I’m a Starbucks poser because I don’t really need coffee.  It’s a luxury for me, a perk, a treat maybe once a month because it’s yummy.  I’ve been known to walk into Starbucks and ask for a “small.”  I’ve had trouble fitting into their culture.  When I stand in line, I admit I practice what I’m going to say over and over in my head.  I get a little apprehensive like I’m heading to a public speaking event.  Why wouldn’t I when the person in front of me is ordering a, “Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip?” 

My husband isn’t a coffee drinker either.  He’s a hot chocolate lover.  Here’s a series of conversations in chronological order in various Starbucks around the city just to order good ol’ fashion hot chocolate.

Starbucks #1 - Chocolate Lover {CL): Tall hot chocolate, please. Starbucks {SB}: Whip or no whip. CL: Whip. 

Starbucks #2 – This time, CL requested more chocolate in his drink. CL: Tall hot chocolate, extra chocolate. SB: How many pumps? CL: Umm, extra. SB: It’s usually 2 pumps. CL: Ok, 4 pumps. SB: Whip or no whip? CL: Whip.

Starbucks #3 – CL: Hot chocolate 4 pumps. SB calls out: "Tall 4 pump hot chocolate with whip!"

Starbucks #4 – CL: Tall 4 pump hot chocolate. SB: 4 pumps of what? Chocolate or vanilla? CL: Uh, chocolate. SB: Whip or no whip? CL: Whip. SB calls out: “Tall 4 pump mocha hot chocolate with whip!”

Starbucks #5 – CL: Tall 4 pump mocha hot chocolate, please.

They gave him coffee.  He figures they misunderstood.

Starbucks #6 - CL: Tall 4 pump mocha hot chocolate. SB: Do you want a mocha or a hot chocolate? Mocha is coffee.

The moral of the story: just go for the Swiss Miss next time.  Happy Friday! Here are a few bits ‘n bobs for you.

{ } Cook your lobster by butter poaching. Note: Instruction #1 sounds quite graphic. 

{ } 10 things a New Yorker should not do when visiting L.A. 

{ } The 15 best vacation rentals from Amsterdam to Nantucket to Paris. 

{ } Listen to a snippet of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s 12-year-old daughter, Audrey sing.  She’s good! 

{ } Nostalgic for your childhood?  Pick a year and hit click.

{Photo by TISLstyle; icing a cake at BabyCakes}

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