Thursday, September 27, 2012

Miscellaneous PSA: Yoana Baraschi on Amazon

Thanks to a post on Corporette yesterday, I discovered a bunch of cute pieces from designer Yoana Baraschi currently available on Amazon! 

Yoana Baraschi Women's Banker Babe Skirt with Drape ($29, reduced from $227)

Yoana Baraschi Women's Rouge Leopard Blouse, Leopard, X-Small ($42, down from $220)

Yoana Baraschi Women's Retro Dress ($59, down from $320) (also available in white)

Yoana Baraschi Women's Apres Tennis Mini Dress ($55, reduced from $297)

Yoana Baraschi Women's Tennis Dot Retro Cardigan Dress ($65, down from $220)

Yoana Baraschi Women's Neoclassic Tattoo Pencil Skirt ($135, reduced from $205) (more subtle sister to Anthro's orange Sunblaze Skirt, which I tried on here)

If you're interested in perusing all the offerings, click here!  (Sorted by price from low to high.)

I'm a HUGE fan of Amazon, so I'm pretty happy that they are acquiring and expanding their clothing offerings!  (See, e.g., here.)  Of course, this could spell trouble for my poor budget, but what good are 96,000 credit card reward points without lots of stuff to drool over on  :-D

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

OOTDs: Embracing the Frump

I'm sure I've mentioned this on the blog before, but I'm a few pounds above my comfy weight right now.  I'm slowly making my way back down in somewhat of a haphazard fashion, but in the meantime I've found that there are some days when I just want to throw on something boxy.

Of course, I had those days before I gained a few pounds, so I'm not sure this preamble was even necessary.

Ikat Shirt from Forever 21 (M)
ASOS pants (8) (here) (These are part linen, so they get very wrinkly in your sit-places.  Not sure I recommend these, but damn do I love the color.  Plus they are $20 with free shipping and free returns, so...)
Target Merona Maire Peep Toe Wedges ($13 here)
Kate Spade "It Takes All Sorts" Necklace
Michael Kors Watch

Anthropologie Dress (S)
Anthropologie Dasara Belt
Kate Spade Studs
Michael Kors Watch
ALDO shoes (ugh, I hate ALDO but I like these shoes)
Sarah Aghili Ring ($7.50 and I LOVE it!) (here)

I'm wearing something more chic and fitted today to maintain the balance...although I'm also wearing these guys so perhaps I'm just going through a frumpy phase?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Old Navy Outfit Overload

After my recent Old Navy shopping binge (see, e.g., here and here), I've been wearing duds from that store on the regular. Rather than let them pile up on my iPad (or, do as a sensible person would do and stretch these photos out into a bunch of posts), I figured I'd assemble them all in one place!

* PS:  Old Navy is running a 20% off promotion until Friday! *

Women's Roll-Cuff Blouse in Bright Nite (M, but a bit tight in the shoulders)
 ($20 here) (edited on 10/1:  after washing, I noticed a patch of fabric in the back that seemed to be heat damaged.  I don't think I did anything wrong in washing it...cold water only, although I can't remember if I ran it through the dryer...I don't think so?  Anyway, there's a chance I disregarded care instructions and put this through the dryer and damaged it myself, but in any case you should know that I had this issue!  The shirt is still wearable, but this is obviously annoying.)
Anthro Quilted Tiles Skirt
J.Crew Factory Beaded Bib Necklace
Michael Kors Watch
Manolo Blahnik Pumps

Star-Print Shirt (M) (here, now only available in red) (previously worn here)
AG Stevie Cords in Purple (even though they look black in this shot...grrr, iphone photos)
Anthropologie Trinket Flats
Sarah Aghili Station Necklace (a dupe of a House of Harlow piece) (available in shell and green here)
Michael Kors Watch
Kate Spade Cocktail Ring

3/4 Sleeve Button Tab Blouse in Blue Tango (S) (I have it in three other colors!) (here)
Narcisso Rodriguez Skirt
Charles by Charles David Pumps
Michael Kors Watch
J.Crew Factory Enamel Elephant Necklace
 And a few weekend-wear shots:

Old Navy Horizontal Stripe Shirt (M) (here)
Old Navy Pop-Color Boyfriend Khakis in Gestalt Green (6) (here)
Kate Spade "It Takes All Sorts" Necklace
Coach Hobo Bag
Michael Kors Watch
Old Navy Faux Lizard Flats (9, TTS) (here) (AWESOME)

Old Navy Chiffon Feather-Print Shirtdress (M) (here) (see it on Marianne here) (this is sliiiiiightly too short for me)
J.Crew Jersey Maxi Skirt (S)
Old Navy Faux Lizard Flats (9, TTS) (here) (AWESOME)
Coach Hobo Bag
Kate Spade "It Takes All Sorts" Necklace
Michael Kors Watch

Also, a cheer:  A few days after I made the bulk of my purchases, Old Navy ran a 25% off promotion.  They credited me the 25% price difference without complaint.  Gotta love customer service!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poker Tournament in DC This Weekend! (Also, want a poker lesson?)

I've got a huge number of backlogged outfits to post, but I've given up hope of getting those photos up today since I would actually like to accomplish something at work... 

(I want to be all like this...)

(But I've actually spent most of the day so far like...) allow me to take a moment and plug a great poker event happening in D.C. this weekend!  (Disclosure: my boyfriend is running the event!) 

Apologies to those who don't live near D.C. and for whom this isn't relevant;* feel free to tell me about your weekend plans in the comments, or just poke your head into yesterday's entry about magical kitchen gadgets! (here)

[*  Sidenote:  Are any of my D.C. area readers interested in learning to play poker?  A lot of women I meet IRL tell me that they wish they could play poker, and I love teaching people how!  I don't pretend to be an expert, but I know enough to get you started.  If so, it might be fun to get together for an afternoon for Poker 101 or some such thing.  Let me know in the comments and maybe we can put something together.  It would be free of course (or BYO baked goods).]

The event is a charity poker tournament taking place on Sunday, September 23.  It will be held at Hill Country BBQ Market (410 7th Street NW), which is probably in the top handful of places to eat BBQ in the District.  It starts at 11am and will last until 8 or 9 pm.

The best part?  Not only is your buy-in tax deductible, but it also goes to charity!  (There's a cause-and-effect relationship between those two things.)

The charity is called the Writing on the Wall Project, which is a non-profit initiative aimed at helping Montebello (an inner-city Baltimore) residents create a mural in their neighborhood within the next month. 

Another of Shawn James' Baltimore Murals

The Montebello mural's theme will be about health.  Says the Project: 

"The long-term benefits of the arts, particularly for youth-at-risk, have been proved over and over. Just this year, the National Endowment for the Arts released a report that showed that teens and young adults showed higher academic achievement, greater career aspirations and more civic engagement if they were involved consistently in music, dance, theater or the visual arts."

The buy-in is $195 in advance until 7pm on Saturday, $220 at the door.  You can sign up at this link right here, which you should click.  Also, you can find a lot more details about the tournament behind that link.  Prior top prizes have been between $5k-$10k!

Even better than a $10k top prize?  Yours truly will be one of the poker dealers!

Why doesn't my table look amused?

Hope to see you Sunday!  (Or on some undetermined future day when I teach you to play poker.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Let's Talk About Pressure Cookers

In an effort to shed some of the weight I gained this summer, I have renewed my efforts to cook for myself more often.  I've always loved my crockpot because it has allowed me to make huge batches of delicous food, which I could then portion and freeze for easy reheating at some future time.  My biggest beef with the crockpot, though, was that I could rarely arrange my life so as to have a hot meal waiting for me when I got home.  My hours at work can be unpredictable and I didn't like the thought of leaving the crockpot up and running for twelve hours (or even longer, after which the crockpot would shut itself off and I would risk food spoiliation). 

Also, I don't like waiting for food to be done and prefer as close to instant satisfaction as possible.

I was intrigued by the prospect of a pressure cooker after reading an article about pressure cooking in Cooking Light magazine a while back (here).  The main selling point of the pressure cooker is that it cooks foods using pressurized steam so that you achieve the same degree of tender perfection you would expect from a slow cooker, but in 30% of the time.  In other words, what would take eight hours in the slow cooker or 3-4 hours in the oven/stove only takes an hour in the pressure cooker.  (Or realistically, an hour + about 5-7 minutes for the cooker to accumulate pressure.)

Snap.  That's all I have to say.  Just snap.

The biggest negative of the pressure cooker, based on my research, is only that they carry the risk of explosion, scalding, and painful death.


So, despite my hesitations, when a friend of mine simplified her kitchen and offered to give me a mostly new electric pressure cooker last month, I was too tempted think of my bodily integrity and accepted on the spot.  Of course, she assured me that these newfangled pressure cookers have lots of safety mechanisms built in to prevent disaster, but really what sold me was the 25-minute roast whole chicken.

(This is the model my friend gave me -- a Deni 8.5 Quart) (available here) (note the mixed reviews --- as much as I love this pressure cooker, especially the large capacity and the slow cook function, several reviewers said that their Deni cooker broke after a few uses.  There are a few higher-rated options on Amazon here, here, and here, although they lack the slow cook function and are smaller than 8.5 quarts.)

I've been playing with this pressure cooker for a month now and I can safely say that it's a fantastic appliance!  I'm not sure why I was ever intimidated by this thing.  The electric models look like crock pots (and the Deni even has a slow cooker function) and they can cook similarly large, freeze-able quantities of food.  I'm told there's some kind of locky latchy thing that keeps the pressure cooker from starting if it's not fully closed and that somehow keeps it from exploding.  (The mechanics of that last part are unclear to me, but it seems that the explosions are mostly a problem with the stovetop model.)  Also, using common sense when opening the lid or releasing the pressure makes it easy to avoid physical injury.  (i.e., that scalding-hot steam that's about to come out of the machine?  Don't put exposed skin in its way.  Easy enough?)

(This extreme may not be necessary.) (Source)

The best thing?  The food that comes out of this guy (the pressure cooker, not the man in the photo above) is AMAZING:

*  I have NEVER successfully cooked even a single artichoke, but this thing got six done in eight minutes and they were PERFECT. 

*  That 25-minute roast chicken I mentioned?  The most delicious, tender chicken I have ever made EVER, including the white meat which is the true sign of a well-cooked chicken, I think.  And know this:  I am CONSTANTLY messing up chicken because I am so paranoid about undercooking it that I always dry it out.  (Also, the pressure cooker I have has a "brown" feature, so I could brown/crisp up the chicken before starting the steaming.) 

*  I made ropa vieja in about an hour, and because the pressure cooker can do wonders tenderizing cheap meat, I skipped my normal flank steak and bought cheap London broil on sale, saving about $20 on meat alone.  The London broil cooked perfectly and shredded as easily with forks as a more expensive cut of meat would have.

So, in sum, I am thrilled with the pressure cooker.  The electric ones seemingly require very little effort and oversight and the results are truly, truly fantastic.  Almost unfairly fantastic, because I should not be getting any of the credit for how good my food turns out nowadays.  (Thanks, Shari!)

Do you have a pressure cooker?  Do you have a similarly magic piece of kitchen equipment?  Dish!  (ha, pun retroactively intended.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: Firmoo Glasses (everyone gets a free pair! (?))

Recently, a company named Firmoo contacted me to ask that I write a review of their online service, which provides extremely inexpensive prescription lenses online. I was intrigued by the website...several pairs (with prescription lenses!) ring up at under $15, which is a downright steal. I wear prescription contacts but have several pairs of glasses on hand for days when I feel like mixing things up. I agreed to write the review.
As I made my way through Firmoo's online inventory, I came to appreciate the search functionality, which allows you to filter by fields like size, shape, gender, color, and price. Some of these fields are not fully functional (i.e., filtering by "women" needlessly leaves out appropriate "unisex" glasses; Firmoo, perhaps those buttons could allow you to select multiple options instead of being exclusive radial buttons?). There is also a virtual try-on feature, which allows you to upload your own photo to see how a given pair of glasses would look on your face.
I settled on this pair, which seemed different enough from my conservative Tory Burch frames to warrant a place on my face.
Unisex Acetate Full Frame Glasses in Tortoise (SD2300) ($17.50 with lenses) (here)
The glasses arrived in about a week. They were packaged well and came with a cute eyeglasses case with an oh-so-hipster map print on it.
Overall, these glasses felt like a reasonable quality. Sturdy plastic, tight hinges (with a glasses screwdriver thing included in the packet) and the prescription felt right. I like the oversized look, and one of my coworkers aptly commented that these glasses made me look like the old man from the movie "Up."
Sure, I can see the resemblance! And I like it!
The best part --- and this is where I could most use your feedback for future updates of this review --- is that Firmoo promises a free first pair of glasses, including prescription lenses, to everyone! (Click here for more details --- seems like you have to pay shipping.)
The reason why I am skeptical of this claim, and why I'd be curious to know whether any of you cash in on this offer, is that review aggregators for Firmoo show an extreme mix of positive and negative reviews (as in, lots of 5/5 stars, lots of 1/5 stars).
From (out of 15 reviews)
The most common complaint appears to be extremely slow shipping time. One negative review even mentions trying to get free glasses but seeing a never-ending countdown-to-availability timer indicating that her glasses would NEVER be available for free.
I personally experienced reasonable shipping time and my glasses were immediately available, but then again I was asked to write a review of my experience and did not submit my order through the website but rather through someone I assume is a PR person. (FYI, bloggers, more info on free glasses --- no shipping charge! --- for review purposes here.)
So, overall, I am very happy with the quality of my old man glasses and the speed with which they arrived at my door. Moreover, I'm supremely intrigued at how dirt cheap these prescription lenses are. You really cannot find deals like this elsewhere. However, I would proceed with caution when ordering from this website in the future, as the negative reviews about shipping delays and falsely advertised free glasses do give me pause. I would probably still give Firmoo a go on my own, but only for one pair and with the understanding that I may have to be a bit of a squeaky wheel to get my money refunded if I experience similar shipping delays as some other online reviewers.
What do you think? Will you give Firmoo a shot?
Disclosure: In exchange for this review, I received the above-mentioned pair of glasses for free. The opinions here are (obviously) my own. I was not otherwise compensated.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Introduction to the Atlantic City Boardwalk

Edit, November 8, 2012:  I've noticed a surge of traffic to this post lately, which I assume is somehow related to Hurricane Sandy's damage to the Atlantic City boardwalk and town.  My heart goes out to the residents of my favorite vacation destination, and I look forward to visiting again very soon.

I spent the weekend introducing a poker friend to Atlantic City for the first time. I've mentioned before how much I love this grungy, somewhat depressing vacation destination, and I always enjoy exposing new people to the town.

It's impossible to visit Atlantic City without appreciating its boardwalk.

There's no better way to spend an hour with pleasant weather in AC than walking the Atlantic City boardwalk. You'll pass quite a cast of characters, along with a very hipster/instagram-ready amusement park also built on a pier (called the Steel Pier).

Along the way, pop into some of the casinos just to look around.

Bally's Wild West Casino, which is decorated like --- you guessed it --- the Wild West.

Revel, Atlantic City's newest casino. This place is just magnificent. Also, if you are looking for a good meal in AC but can't decide where to go, just take yourself to Revel and flip a coin. All of their 18-ish restaurants look amazing and are populated by satisfied-looking customers, and the one meal I've had there so far (Spanish tapas at Amada) was stellar.

I mean, just look at the way this casino reflects the sunlight!

Like I said, magnificent.

My male companions chuckled when I suggested visiting the Pier Shops, a mall on the boardwalk, which is built over a pier into the ocean. But it's a great destination if you skip the shopping and head straight for the top floor.

There, you'll be treated to beautiful views of the water, beach chairs (sitting in fake sand) along the windows in which to relax, and a water show at the very end of the mall at the top of each hour. It's no Bellagio, but it's free.

I went for a morning run along the boardwalk in the other direction and stumbled upon a bunch of benches facing the ocean.

Many were emblazoned with plaques memorializing elderly men and women who loved this town. (I prefer to imagine them sipping McDonald's coffee on the boardwalk at sunrise and not pulling the levers of slot machines in a dark casino while connected to an oxygen tank attached to their electric scooters.)

Finally, there is something beautiful about the decay on the boardwalk. So much lays unused or crumbling, despite the promise of the structures.

Is it possible to look at a skeeball place on a boardwalk without thinking of Kevin Smith's movie, Dogma?

The former AC Hilton, which has now been converted to a casino called The Atlantic Club. Although things look new on the inside, the outside still decays with the faded name of the Hilton moaning from the top.

An empty amphitheater.

Although it's not on the boardwalk, no conversation about Atlantic City would be complete without a mention of White House Subs, an institution of hoagies. If you are a beast, attempt to finish a "whole" sub, which is a hilarious two feet long. The "half" is about as much stomach space as I can muster. (What you see in the background of the photo above is a half sandwich.)

All that was left of my cheesesteak with mushrooms and marinara after a whole five minutes of ravenous eating. LOL at my feeble diet pepsi in the face of this monstrosity.
Have you ever been to Atlantic City? The jersey shore?
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