Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Conquered Closet

Even though I love to read about the adventures other people are having in DIY land, in reality I usually wind up overwhelmed by the logistics and filing all the pretty inspiration away for a time when home improvement doesn't require me to spend hours on the subway searching for, and schlepping around supplies.  

Nevertheless, I was recently tempted once again to stick my toe into DIY land when I came across this post over at Honey We're Home.  I'm kind of embarrassed to say that as a blog newbie (6 posts and counting, woo hoo!), I had to google what a link party is. I'm so glad I did though! The challenge, should I choose to accept, was to tackle an organizational project - big or small - and link to it.  Easy enough and even more perfect since I have tons of disorganization up in here.  Case in point, our coat closet - which, on any given day, looked like this:

In my defense, our apartment only has two closets.  Yes. Two.  New Yorkers will understand that when you find an updated, prewar, two-bedroom duplex in Brooklyn, with reasonable access to subway(s!), a private garden AND a basement man-cave, practical things like closets are rendered meaningless and you do whatever you can to make it yours.  Closets be damned.  I had high hopes for this closet when we moved in, but clearly I failed.  Until now!

Since I posses almost no innate organizational skills, I turned to pinterest and blogland for inspiration and advice on how to make this all happen on the cheap (and easy).  I found great organizational how-to's here and here and elsewhere, but my attention span is almost nonexistent and although drawing a picture of my closet with exact measurements and the whole nine is probably best practice, I don't have the patience.  I helped myself to the highlights and came up with the following plan of attack - call it the crib sheet of closet organization if you will:
  1. identify the purpose:  As our only non-clothes closet, this baby has a lot of work to do.  She's got to hold all season coats for Handsome Hubby (HH) and myself, the majority of my my shoes (HH keeps most of his in the man-cave), HH's not insignificant baseball cap collection, winter accessories, umbrellas and all of my bags - including clutches, unused wallets and my ever growing collection of free conference swag bags.
  2. identify the problem:  Easy - shoes, coats, bags.  In that order.  I have a ton of shoes and maybe holds half of them.  On the plus side, a lot of my shoes never make it home and remain comfortably (and conveniently) under my desk at work.
  3. invest in some help (in the form of cute and functional organizing tools):  Ironically, buried on the top shelf from hell are unopened shelf organizers that I purchased way back when for handbag wrangling.   Just another coat closet casualty.
  4. decide on a process:  Most people say that you should empty the closet entirely and then edit and sort for things you want to toss, keep or donate.  Our closet empties right out into the living room and the prospect of a living room full of mess was depressing, especially since I had no idea how long this would take.  I found it less daunting to work my way up in sections, starting with the ugly mess of shoes at the bottom.
Deciding on the help was easy once I gave some thought to the problem areas and was honest with myself about how much effort I'm going to be willing to put into keeping up the pretty in the dead of winter (answer: not much).  I have too many shoes and not enough space for cubbies, and I've never understood the individual shoe box thing.  Sure, they're pretty, but who wants to go rummaging through boxes in the morning? And it seems it seems like such a hassle to have to each pair of shoes back in a box with a lid every time you wear them.  I'd wind up with a pile of shoes and a bunch of empty shoe boxes before I left the house.   

a hot stinky mess
To tackle the shoe pile, I looked around for one of those expander shoe rack things like this, but a quick in-store trial revealed a problem -  the rods were spaced for people with bigger feet and didn't work for my heels or flats.  Thankfully, the Container Store had this one which is flat and avoids the whole shoe slippage thing.  It's not the cheapest one they have, but it was the lightest which is key when you have to carry your help back to Brooklyn.

The rack technically only holds 8(!) pairs of women's shoes (I fit 13), so I went with a two-pronged approach and used a large basket for overflow shoes that I don't wear as often.

The bag situation was a bit more challenging.  Here's the old system at work.  Ugly, right?

As you can see, I like big bags.  I have a nasty habit of filling them with crap and then, once they're too heavy to carry, I either a) deposit the bag (and all nonessential crap) on the convenient stair railing post and start using a different bag or b) transfer the nonessential crap to some other bag (also on the post) and ignore the whole mess until HH starts giving me the side-eye. What's left is that ugly wasteland of crap-filled bags.  

Since most of my bags are floppy and unstructured, putting them on the top shelf doesn't work for me.  I'm too short (and too lazy) to place them neatly and they just wind up flopping over or falling on the floor.  In the end I went with a large basket for the lesser-used bags and a giant hook for the ones that are in my weekly rotation.  The hook thing is AMAZING.  I was skeptical about its sturdiness, but I've got two bags (slightly less)full of crap on it and could definitely add one or two more.  I threw out the packaging but I think this is it.  So far so good.

Reluctantly, I also decided to splurge on new coat hangers.  We were previously short a few hangers and HH and I were engaged in a never-ending unspoken-of war for the most under-used hanger. Regardless of who won the nightly battle, there was then the tug of war with the couple dozen other coats in there to find space.  The result: usually a broken hanger and a closet full of wrinkled coats. Enough of that, thanks. We now have extra room for the bag hook AND guest coats. YAY!

Once the shoes, bags and coats were tackled the rest was easy.  Winter accessories, lesser used baseball caps, extra umbrellas and windbreakers and the bag collection each got their own basket up top, freeing up room to hang the stuff we use frequently on the over door thing we already had.  Notice I allowed myself only ONE conference swag bag which is actually holding a few weekend clutches that I use often and anticipate being too lazy to pull down off the shelf (anyone notice a behavioral pattern here).

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here's my closet inspiration.

source: bhg
not too shabby, right?

It's not perfect (I still need to find a home for the golf umbrellas) and it remains to be seen how this all looks in a couple of months once winter is upon us, but for now I'm calling this one a win. 

Huge thank you to Honey We're Home for hosting the link party and helping me get motivated. Initially I was self conscious about linking up and drawing attention to my new little blog but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Also linking up to the Organize It Link Party at Our Fifth House. 

What about you?  Tackle any beginner DIY or organizational projects lately? 


Monday, August 27, 2012

Tis the Season

Boot season is upon us.  As a pavement pounding Brooklynite with a strong aversion to the cold and hurt feet, it should come as no surprise that I LIVE in a boot from late September to March.  Don't get me wrong, I love a nasty pump as much as the next gal, but with age came wisdom, and I no longer see any reason for the toe suffering madness of heels during the workweek unless an extra extra special outfit demands.   If I could sum up my personal style in two words, they would be "pretty casual".  Kind of like this:

source: lucky mag
So naturally I was THRILLED that the fashion gods have seen fit to bring back all manner of super cute flat(ish) boots and tights (three cheers for warm AND comfy toesies!).  The problem is that most of the boots I covet are made for super tall people with skinny calves.  Years of running and crunches to whittle my middle have done nothing to shrink my calves to a desirable (according to the boot gods) 13 inch circumference, and so every year around this time I spend hours pouring over the fall boot options with the hopes that somewhere out there is a black - nearly flat, not so chunky, not SO tall, not SO skinny, flat, not so edgy that I can't wear them to work, but not so stuffy that I can't wear them to dinner - boot out out there with my name on it. Oh.  And said mythical boot can't cost a fortune either, especially since post-wedding poverty is upon us.  Needless to say, every year I wind up digging out, dusting off and reheeling my old faithfuls from years past.  It cannot go on.  My poor rusty dusties have nothing left to give and so the search continues. 

Thankfully fall's boot inventory is highly encouraging - even the low/mid bootie is making a comeback with cute chelsea booties like these or these - but my preferred budget of $400 or less (preferably less) combined with my aforementioned requirements narrows the field quite a bit.  Sadly these shining examples of boot perfection that I have coveted for YEARS remain firmly out of my reach:

Loeffler Randall Matilde
The versatility of this boot is incredible.  Dressed up or down in black or brown (yes, I rhyme too!), these boots are hot, hot, hot!

Images via Loeffler Randall
But alas, my budget (and HH) doth protest so I'm moving on.  Thankfully, online shopping really has made boot shopping much less painful.  For starters there are WAY more options, but now retailers have finally become hip to my struggle and have started including the circumference and shaft height (mind out of the gutters ladies!) in their descriptions.  That information when combined with the helpful comments of ladies in similar straights have saved me SO much time -let alone the indignity of stuffing myself unsuccessfully into a too tall or too skinny boot in public (something I much prefer to do in comfort of my own home).

Recently I've started opening up to my friends and fellow shoppers about my boot buying blues and not surprisingly, I'm not alone.  So for those of you out there who, like me, fall somewhere outside of the boot mold, I thought I'd share my top three online sources for boots:

1.  Piperlime - In general it's one of my favorite sites for online shoe shopping. Same stuff as the department stores, but more of it and with better descriptions and comments.  It's got the spectrum of price ranges and the selections are well edited thanks to the contributions of savvy guest editors like my girl, Rachel Zoe.  Think zappos or endless but without having to click through tons and tons of uglies to get to the good stuff.  Check it out.

2. Shopbop - Usually my first stop for online window shopping.  Great on trend selections not always available in stores.  Cause come one, there's nothing worse than finally finding the shoe of your dreams and then seeing it on the foot of every second lady on the street!  Although they always have a few budget friendly pics, I usually use this site for inspiration and then look for a budget friendly version elsewhere.

3. JCrew - For some reason JCrew tends to make riding boots with a more generous shaft (-it is impossible to write that word without sounding dirty -sorry!).  I think they were also among the first mainstream retailers to offer extended calf options for their popular styles.  On that note - although I appreciate the fact that gals like me are no longer relegated to elastic boots - the proportions on extended calf boots don't work for me.  I'm not a big person.  I just don't have super tiny legs.  The extended calf boots either make me look deformed - like I'm walking around with a soccer ball strapped to my calf - or like I'm wearing the boot version of slouch socks.  Not so cute.  Proportionwise though, I think a taller gal would have much better luck with the extended calf boot.  At least I hope so.

After scouring the web, here's what I've come down to:
or these

I'm hoping one of these bad boys will do it for me.  I like the look of the Orna the best, but I'm not sure about mid-calf boots so I'm gonna try the taller and very similar Ola to compare.  Ordinarily I'm anti zipper, but since gold and I love gold, I'm going to give it a try.  And although neither of these are officially in the budget (story of my life), with a little help from HH in the form of a 20% off friends and family coupon to Piperlime and bridal shower gift card to Bloomies - I will be the proud owner of these boot beauties in 2-3 business days.  Crossing my fingers (and toes) that they fit.  Stay tuned.

What about you? Any favorite boot trends or sources? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Big Bathroom Dreams and Little Gold Feet

With not much to report on the apartment buying front (we're still in mortgage has been approved but no closing date has been set mode), the honeymoon provided me with lots of free time to ponder the fun stuff like decorating.  So what if we still have to buy the apartment, rent the apartment, swap apartment for house with my mom, and renovate the house before there's even anything to decorate.  Realistically we're like two years out from an actual move to the burbs but the architecture and the ambiance and the hotels in Greece and Italy were totally inspiring and I'm nothing without a project to research the heck out of!

First up is the bathroom.  I know.  You think honeymoon daydreaming and you think bedroom.  Sorry to disappoint, but weirdly I've always liked hotel bathrooms (the nice ones!) and I've been collecting design inspiration from European hotels (and their bathrooms) in my head for years.   The first time I saw a seamless shower was actually in a hotel in Italy and I've never looked at shower curtains the same since.

So the rooms at the Katikies Hotel were all-white caves carved into the mountains and the contrast with the ocean and the "Santorini blue" paint that appears on nearly every church roof, door and shutter in town had an amazingly calming effect.  Perfect vibe for a bathroom, right?  Calm and clean, just how I like it.  I was dumb and didn't take any snaps of the hotel bathrooms at Katikies, but lucky for me, the pics on their website are WAY better than mine would be anyway

this was actually our room!

source (all three above):  Katikies
Totally looking forward to the day when I can soak in tub with a glass of wine in a room that inspires memories of Greek sunsets and such.  Who wouldn't, right?

I'm not usually a blue paint person, but in Santorini I found myself asking HH more than once where they all find the same color blue, and more importantly, do they export to NJ (that last part I said to myself lest HH think I'm getting WAY too far ahead of myself, even for me).  Anyway, imagine my surprise when I found this little nugget while perusing pinterest in Greece (yes, I was on pinterest while on honeymoon.  Sue me!)

Source:  thecoveteur
That picture sealed the deal.  Blue is usually a color I like and then get tired of, but I have never been more certain - there's a teeny tiny bathroom in Penny Heaven with a tiny claw foot tub and a vaulted roof (kind of like a cave!) that WILL be painted Santorini blue and WILL one day be my little piece of honeymoon-inspired bliss in NJ.  Exciting right?

Apparently there's a painted claw foot tub craze going on and I haven't really been a fan of up until now.  But how could you not love this one.  With the little gold feet!? In the words of Rachel Zoe: I DIE! You all know I love love love little gold anything.  Thank you Pinterest!

In the absence of any actual pics of our bathroom, I also found this one on Pinterest which comes closest to the layout (sadly, without the pretty skylights).  I'm leaning towards white beadboard paneling for the walls like this but we shall see. The bathroom in Penny Heaven is currently carpeted but I'm hoping we get lucky and uncover wood floor underneath.  Fingers crossed.

I like the horizontal paneling here too, and the open shelving is brilliant, especially given that the only storage in our super-tiny bathroom is the medicine cabinet...

source: designskool
Although I failed in snapping real-life pic - which, like I said, is probably for the best - I did get lots of the now-infamous, and much repeated, Santorini blue

Side note. The honeymoon revealed, among other things, a heretofore unacknowledged love of brightly colored and oddly placed old doors.  You'll be seeing them.  A lot.

And lest you think I've made up this whole love of hotel bathroom things.  I have proof! Witness: me in a tub in Vegas that HH and I agreed should make an appearance somewhere in the new house.  Maybe the master bath?  So what if we only remembered to snap a pic while celebrating our winnings?  Proof is proof.

Over and out.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Honeymoon Highlights

We’re hitched!  I know I'm skipping over a lot of stuff that I fully plan to return to, but handsome hubby (HH) and I are officially newlyweds and after two weeks honeymooning in Greece (Santorini) and Italy (Rome and Amalfi Coast) we’re finally (and in record time!) unpacked and settling into the fun part – the happily ever after. 

Now having been on one, I’ll say that honeymoons are a funny thing.  Amazing, to be sure, but kind of New Year’s-esque in the sense that you spend gads of time planning and anticipating and planning.   And with expectations of nonstop, er,…romance (my mom's reading!) that high, it’s hard to imagine how anything could live up.  

That said, notwithstanding my obsessive compulsive tendency to plan every vacation to the nth degree, our honeymoon was the least planned trip I’ve ever taken.  Normally I’d have spreadsheets, maps, at least three tour books, scheduled activities, notes from tripadvisor and fodors, printouts of confirmations, restaurant reservations and backup plans, the whole nine.  But having been consumed with wedding details, I only got as far as the hotels, the flights, the transfers (except one crucial one!), one map, one hastily uploaded nook travel guide and one confirmed tour.  It will surprise no one that my OCD would not allow me to relinquish the entire honeymoon planning process to HH as per tradition, but who cares. I did quite happily leave the dining reservations up to him and the rest in the hands of fate.  

And we had the best time ever! Suffice to say, I finally learned that the best trips don’t have to be hyper-planned.  Admittedly, I was a little nervous that I’d forgotten to plan the romance part of the trip that I'd all ways assumed were honeymoon staples - like the moonlit private boat cruises and million-course michelin star dinners - but in retrospect, I'm so glad I didn’t.  Romance is definitely better served spontaneously and it's even sweeter when it doesn't completely break the bank.  Fresh off the buzz of the big day, and in the company of a handsome hubby, it’s hard not to feel the warm and fuzzies in a place like this

Oia, Santorini
or this


or this!

Oia, Santorini
I'll be back with more about the honeymoon (and the wedding) but for now, here's the first of my top five honeymoon favorites:

1.   Breakfast (and dinner) with a view  It's no secret that one of the best parts about European hotels are the free breakfasts.  Free food is generally always fabulous.  But then there's also the fact that breakfast in Italy is basically like dessert.  I'm usually not a fan of chocolate for breakfast but that was before Nutella.  My newly-beloved Nutella.  Who needs pancakes when you can Nutella on toast, Nutella on croissants, Nutella on get the picture.  Let's just say I had no problem waking up early on vacation.  Honestly, the breakfast at every hotel was outstanding but the breakfast at Villa Katikies and Katikies Hotel in Santorini were my favorite.  Served made to order and in the privacy of our own terrace overlooking the Caldera - what's not to love?

Our trip was actually choc full of great food and great views.  Wanda (the fat lady who lives in my tummy) was in SEVENTH HEAVEN! 

One of my favorite meals was our first night at the Greek Restaurant at Katikies.  It only has 5 or 6 tables and somehow we wound up with the whole place to ourselves!  With an open-air kitchen, a private chef, an awesome sunset (and a handsome new hubby!), I loved every minute of it. Until I fell asleep during dessert…from jetlag and post-wedding exhaustion, not the food!  The food was great!

open-air kitchen and chef!

toasting to a pretty darn good honeymoon kickoff!
And here we are enjoying the sunset once again at the aptly named Sunset Taverna in Ammoudi Bay.  Another great recommendation from the hotel and totally worth the 300+ steps we walked down (thankfully!) to get there. 

Sadly, we got no snaps of the donkeys we passed on our way down, but here is the first of many tootsie shots, here with mine dangling into the ocean as we waited for the appetizers.  How fun!

And of course the sunset wasn't bad either :) 

Our last night we treated ourselves to one of the best views I’ve ever seen in Ravello at Villa Maria.  We happened to pass by Villa Maria’s terrace restaurant on a walk during our first morning in Ravello.  The view and the music playing out onto the street were the stuff of honeymoon dreams so it wasn’t hard to settle on Villa Maria for our last dinner, even knowing nothing about the food.  What an amazing choice!  So glad we nixed the Michelin-(some say over)rated restaurant I was originally hoping for and went with Villa Maria.  The food, although not the best of our trip, was solid and the whole experience was enhanced by the fact that we were seated next to an amazing couple from FL married forty years, retired for twenty and mid-way through a 7-week Italian vacation.  They were one of those inspirational couples that make marriage (and life) feel simple fun and I walked away thoroughly excited about our next 40!

The end.  For now.