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Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category


invitation viewmasterI’ve been holding off on writing about the invitations to my twins’ B’nai Mitzvah until they went out. But now that it’s done: Ta da!

These totally original, customized viewmasters were made by Image 3D. I can’t even take credit for the idea, Amy from Chandelier Events told me about it. It’s pretty simple, really: you go online, upload some photos, drag and drop them into place, add some text, and Presto Chango: less than two weeks later you get 100 boxes filled with 100 viewmasters for you to send to your family and friends.

I had a little text placement help from a designer friend at Big Sea Design.com, (plus she designed the center label) but it really is DIY — if you’re not, like me, fontically challenged. (what?  it’s a word!)

And while it’s hard to really tell what they look like from this image, imagine this:  the disks come packaged in a viewmaster, so your guests click through the images, with the text “floating” on top of them, while looking through the viewfinder.

Before choosing these, I went through much agonizing.  Since our party is being held at The American Museum of the Moving Image, the viewmaster theme seemed particularly apropos.  What they didn’t seemm, was low-key.  Quite the opposite.  For advice, I went to – where else – Facebook -  and after weighing the advice and comments from about 30 something friends…. I decided to go for it.

The fact is, these super-cool, clever, and original (if I do say so myself) invitations ended up costing about half of what the paper invitations I had priced cost. Even so, the appearance of over-the-topness bothered me.

Still, in the end, I couldn’t resist.  So these were the winners.  And the response has been pretty phenomenal: from “best invitations evah!”  to “These are the best invitations anyone in my family has ever gottten.  Ever.”  to the simple “This invitation just made my day,” the praise was pretty much universal. (of course, people who hate it and think it’s over the top don’t send you emails to tell you that.  But I’ll go on believing nobody felt that way.  I will.)

I’m starting to think that personalized Bar and Bat Mitzvah gifts are the way to go, too. PersonalCreations.com personalizes everything from a baseball bat to a pen and pencil set, to a silver money clip to help keep all those $36 gifts organized.  The only reason they didn’t make it onto my list of Best Bar/Bat Mitzvah gifts is because I didn’t know about them.  You can even use this coupon code to save on purchases, if you decide to take my advice and shop there.

But for now – I’m not worrying about anything.  Not gifts,  not the menu, not the fact that I still haven’t hired a florist, less than two months out. (Oy!)

The invites are out.  Let the chasing of RSVPs begin!

Disclosure:  I was compensated for my mention of Personal Creations.com.  As usual, I was given no editorial direction whatsoever, and all opinions are my own.

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Bar Mitzvah season is upon me.  And I must admit, I usually just write a check.  But gifts can be nice, too.  Especially when they’re one of these: fun, cool, unique, and at every price point.

bar mitzvah 2

An entire classic novel in poster form.    Plus, they make posters out of celebrity twitter feeds.  Super original and cool.

A KeyChain to commemorate their special day.

Lego Mindstorms – because “now you’re an adult aside, big kids still wanna play. (more…)

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I’ve been looking for a new coffee table.  Trolling Houzz and Design Sponge.  And I finally found one I love.

Council Design

Table by Council Design

Sort of a bummer that it’s $42,000.  And no, I didn’t add a zero by mistake.

Ah well.  Back to the drawing board.

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One of my many discount Missoni pieces.

I grew up in a family that never paid retail.  Oh, it wasn’t that we couldn’t afford it.  We could.  We never paid retail because it simply wasn’t done.

Besides, we were Jews, and there was a Loehmann’s nearby. Shopping there was a biological imperative.  I still remember my first trip to the discount mecca.  How could I forget?  The array of bodies in that communal dressing room plagued my dreams for decades.  In one recurring nightmare, a barechested woman of a certain age smacked me in the face with her batwings as she reached for a blouse someone had put on the discard rack.

Oh, wait.  That actually happened. (more…)

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The New Global Table Store on the Upper West Side

I like to joke that I live in the suburbs.  The strollers, the families, the dogs. The big box stores like Staples and Barnes and Noble.  Oh, and subways, and crowds, and apartments and doormen.  See, I am an Upper West Sider.  There is not a whole lot of cache to living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  It’s where the families go.  It’s relatively quiet after 10pm.  If you’re a tourist, you probably wouldn’t come by.  We do have Zabars, where bus loads of tourists stop in to get upscale deli food like smoked salmon, whitefish salad, and a huge variety of cheese and prepared foods.  We have The American Museum of Natural History, which is a great place for families.  We have Central Park and Riverside Park.  And Lincoln Center on the southern end.  But mostly, it’s residential, not a tourist magnet. You wouldn’t come here to shop.

And that would be a mistake.

You are in NY.  Shop like a NYer, why don’t you?  Not a chain store on the list.

Food:Zabars and Fairway are legendary NY food institutions.  Zabars, known mostly for it’s Jewish delicacies, and Fairway for it’s vast selection of…well, everything, and more than worth a visit.

Salumeria Rosi – Less known but no less delicious, this restaurant with a counter for purchases up front offers a vast array of – you guessed it – salamis  – many of them housemade.

Jacques Torres Chocolates, right next door to Salumeria has the best Hot Chocolate in the city.  And pretty fantastic chocolates, too.

Bakery Levain – Scone sized chocolate chip cookie cakes. ‘Nuff said.

Clothing:

Darryl’s – I admit to a bias here – I have been shopping at Daryl’s for more than 20 years.  I bought when I was in college, and I still buy there now.  Darryl has a great eye – price is less important than look – and he knows better than I do what will work on me. He’ll do the same for you.  Personal service, small boutique vibe, and a nice, not –inexpensive but well-priced selection. Love.

Loehmann’s – this place such a NY institution that I’m always surprised when people haven’t heard of it.  Discount discount discount.  Men and women, and a small selection for baby to 6x.  We are talking serious designers and serious bargains.  The hand bags are fabulous.

Barney’s Coop – It isn’t Barney’s.  It’s smaller, more manageable, less intimidating – and most importantly – less expensive.  Not inexpensive.  Not AT ALL.  But still, you might be able to find something you can afford here from a new hot designer.  And you won’t be intimidated by the staff and clients while you buy it. Plus, you’ll be able to say of whatever fabu thing you buy “I bought it at Barney’s.”

The Town Shop – another NY institution, and the best bra fitters in the business.  If you’re shy – don’t come.  But if you don’t mind showing your stuff to get a great fitting bra – this is THE place to go.  I bought my very fist bra here.  And so did just about every other New Yorker I know.

Kids:

West Side Kids – Yes, there is a giant Toys R Us at Times Square.  Who cares? You have a Toys R Us wherever you live, I’d bet.  Try out this neighborhood gem, where they really help you pick out something fabulous, and where you’ll find things from lesser known, quality American and European toy manufacturers.

A Time for Children – A portion of proceeds from this lovely shop go to support the Children’s Aid Society.  And the young staff are all teens being trained on how to run a business, do books, work with customers, etc.  Add to that a well selected collection of clothing, books, toys and truly fabulous gifts for baby – with great prices and lots of little things you can just pick up – and you can’t miss.

Home:

Gracious Home – it’s expensive. I’ll admit it.  But a lot of the time, it’s worth it.  The service is great.  They have everything for the home.  And they will do whatever they can to help you, to get you what you need, to ship it, take it back, help you figure out what you mean when you say “You know – that thing, you know…the thing you use?”  They’ll know.

Global Table – Incredibly affordable, super chic table ware, vases, bowls and more. This is a new addition to the Upper West side, and probably where I will buy all of my gifts for the next…forever.

And that’s not even talking about the shops at Columbus Circle, the independent boutiques that run the length of Columbus Avenue. Have fun. Stroll around.  You might be the only tourist.  And sometimes, that’s the best shopping of all.

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WP_000254We’ve had such a run unseasonably warm weather here in New York, it’s kind of hard to complain, even now that it’s gotten cold.

But I’m not going to let that stop me. (more…)

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Recently, I went shopping at Duane Reade, the New York convenience store, and it made me think of Times Square.

If you grew up in New York, or if you’ve been here more than 20 years, or if you’ve seen any Scorcese movie made in the 1970′s, then you remember when Times Square was seedy.  You remember – maybe even with fondness -  the way there were creepy men hanging around the peep shows, how Robin Byrd was headlining at Show World.  You remember that certain combination of grime, sleaze and glitz that was Times Square.

Now, Times Square isn’t gritty, it’s glitzy and glamorous.  Now there are brand name stores, like the new American Eagle Outfitters, and Sephora, and the flagship Toys R Us complete with indoor ferris wheel.

It’s a bit disconcerting.

And that is kind of like Duane Reade.  For decades, Duane Reade, a NYC chain of pharmacy/snack/drug store/convenience stores, was famously – oh, how can I put this kindly – seedy.  Oh, we all shopped there.  Duane Reade had everything. Need Shampoo?  You’ve got it.  Need a mop? Check.  Need bandaids, aspirin, Leggs pantyhose in a plastic egg, pork rinds, Spam in a can? Duane Reade was the place to go.

But it was also famous for being maybe not the most service oriented place.  Maybe not the cleanest. Definitely not glam.

My how times have changed.

Fancy Schmancy Fragrance at DR on 72nd and Broadway

And while there’s a part of me that thinks it’s a bit sad – the Walgreens-i-fication of the chain has taken out the New Yorkiness of the place (Walgreen recently bought all 257 DR stores for $1.1 billion)  – it didn’t stop me from heading there to do a little bit of last minute stocking stuffer (well, you can’t stuff a Menorah) shopping at my newly glammed up DR. (more…)

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MomTrends Lands End Holiday Party

Me in a Size Four! With Nicole, Alicia, and Carrie at the MomTrends Event

Yesterday, dear reader, I left off my tale of blogger-woe at the point at which I had vanquished my underwhelming-techie self over at Qualcomm, only to find myself oversized for Lands End.

A breif recap: I went to a Qualcomm super techie press conference.  I am not even a sub-super techie.  But I figured it out. Yay me.  Then, I left there and went straight to the MomTrends Lands End holiday party where I should have been totally in the zone – instead, I was in the the petite department.  That pretty much brings you up to date. So what did I do next?

Lucikly, Nicole, MomTrends herself (and an actual size 2) had hired stylists and they went to work. (Luckily, too, I had a pair of Spanx in my bag. I’m nothing if not prepared) I squeezed into the Spanx, into the size 4 dress, donned a blazer to cover the worst of it, and a size too-big (but super duper cute) Lands End riding boots to distract from the worst of it, and walked the runway like a champ.

A champ who couldn’t move her arms too far in front of her body…but still.

And what did I take away from these two seemingly disparate events?

1. That I can understand tech speak if I just listen hard enough, and brush up on my metaphorical Swahili.

2. That it kinda does matter who powers your smart phone, and maybe I should start paying attention.

3. That Lands End makes  suprisingly sophisticated housewares like Mercury glass candle holders, birch bark candles, and hand knit animals.

4. That Lands End Canvas line is (gasp) kinda hip.

and most importantly, that

5. Lands End has taken vanity sizing to new levels of vanity. and I love them for it.  Because Vanity Sizing or no,  I can’t help but be thrilled that I fit into a size four.  I will take that to my GRAVE, people!  A size four! Vanity sizing works!  I felt fabulous.

(The terrific make up by Evy Drew didn’t hurt either.)

And there you have it.  From Tech geek to fashion floozy. A day in the(blogging) life of this NYC Blogger.

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Would you take your 8 year old to an R rated movie? Probably not. Would you let them play arcade games that feature graphic violence. Of course you wouldn’t. But if you’re not aware of the ESRB ratings, chances are you’re letting your kids play DS, Wii or Xbox games that are not at all appropriate to their age.

Everyone knows what the movie ratings mean: G means it’s for everyone. Nothing scary, nothing violent, no bad language or nudity. PG means it’s OK for older kids, but there might be some not-too-gory violence, and some scary bits. Any bad language would be TV bad…not street bad. And so on. But do you really know what the ESRB ratings mean? Do you even know what ESRB stands for? If you’re planning on rushing out on Black Friday to buy your kids the latest and greatest video games, there’s a lot about the ESRB you should know.

ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) is a non-profit group designed to be a resource for parents, helping them to navigate the world of gaming and ensure they make age-appropriate, informed choices for their kids. ESRB ratings are on just about every game package. But what do they really mean?

Say you’re in a store, you see a game that’s rate,Teen. According to the ESRB, it could have gotten that rating for any one of these reasons:
“…content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor,

ESRB "Teen" rating symbol, displayed...

Image via Wikipedia

minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.”

The thing is, what bothers me (violence) may not be the same thing that bothers you. (nudity? language?). So how do you know why the game got the rating it did so that you can decide whether or not to get it for your child? With the ESRB’s nifty new app, that’s how.

Here’s how it works, in the store, you use your phone to take a picture of a video game box, and within seconds the ESRB sends you (no charge) all the “nuts and bolts” facts about the game. Not reviews, mind you, but facts about why the game received the rating it did.

“This new rating search app puts all this information at parents‟ fingertips when they need it most, right at the store.” says
ESRB president Patricia Vance “It’s a powerful tool that will help assure parents that the games they give as gifts are not only fun but also appropriate for their children.”

The app is available for free at the itunes store. And I, for one, know that I’ll get it and use it. Why? Because in the incredibly fast-moving world of gaming, there’s no way I can keep track of everything. Now, I won’t have to.

Article first published as Shopping for Kids Games? There’s an App for That! on Technorati.

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Never pay retail.

That’s the mantra of many a woman who grew up in New York.  For us, (OK, for mostly Jewish women of a certain age) Loehmann‘s was the only place to shop. There, in the racks and racks of schmattas lay untold designer treasures — at 50-75% off retail. It was like Mecca for Jews.  When I was a teenager, a trip to Loehmann’s communal dressing room was an experience, a right of passage, and a somber foreshadowing of what my lithe, firm body would someday become.

But Loehmann’s taught me about more than sagging flesh and bat wings, it taught me to Never Pay Retail.  A rule I have lived by to this day.  And not just at Loehmann’s.  I have an impressive collection of Missoni - a coat, two blazers, two dresses and more — all bought at a fraction of their original price at Filene’s Basement (now all but ruined by it’s acquisition by Syms.  Boo Hoo.) I have Sigerson Morrison pumps for which I paid $40.  Channel flats that were $95.  Both from the now defunct (and sorely, sorely misses) discount shoe store Danbar.

And yet, I never applied the never pay retail rule to grocery shopping.  Until now.  Because now, there’s a BJ’s nearby.  I may never pay grocery retail again!

I have been to Costco.  I like Costco.  But I live in a Manhattan (read small) apartment, and Costco only sells MASSIVE sizes of everything. BJ’s, on the other hand, sells NORMAL SIZES of the things you love.  They even make an effort to support local businesses by offering locally made baked goods in their stores. They even take coupons!  Regular cut ‘em out of the newspaper coupons.

It’s kind of awesome.

And at the blogger event they held last week, I learned that they also have some pretty nice gifts to give.  Like electronics, and housewares, and gift baskets, and toys. (A review of the toy they gave me (full disclosure) will be up after the Thanksgiving weekend.) All at significantly lower prices than grocery and department stores. My favorite thing they showed us that day?  Living Home Holiday Handcrafted Gift Tags.  They are GORGEOUS.  (And not all of them are Christmassy.  They are gift-generic) and you get 60 for $7.99.

So: cheaper food, inexpensive gifts, some local fare.  What could be bad?

Well, from now on, when I think about BJ’s, all I’ll think is…what was I doing all these years, paying….retail?!  It’s like I’ve been a traitor to my own motto.  And I never even realized it until now.

Take up the cause: Never pay retail!

I won’t.

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