Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Brownstone Boner: The Before

After giving our landlord 30 days notice, the husband and I sat down (metaphorically) and made a long, pie-in-the-sky list of new apartment criteria.

It went as follows, from essential to I-read-too-much-Domino-and-I-simply-want-this.
  • 1+ bedrooms. This time around, I was getting a fucking bedroom door.
  • Somewhere in our favorite parts of Brooklyn: Fort Greene, Clinton/Cobble Hills, Carroll Gardens, Prospect Heights, Greenpoint. We were willing to look elsewhere if things got tight, but we knew our budget was reasonable for a not-shitty one bed.
  • Stunningly bright for the plants.
  • Washer/dryer. You might be surprised this wasn't at the top, but we've subsisted QUITE well on a service that picks up, does the laundry, and drops it off. Yes it's absurd and bougie, but it saves tens of hours every year. Some people have their cleaning ladies. I have my laundry boy.
  • High-ass ceilings because the last place felt a little too cozy most of the time.
  • Outdoor space for grilling.
We didn't care about a dishwasher. (Then, anyway. Now I'd fight to the death for one.) Good public schools for future offspring was a nice-to-have, but since that's not an immediate concern, we didn't make it a Thing.

The above exists, of course. Usually starting around $4500/month and skyrocketing from there.

So we did the usual heinous NYC apartment-hunting slog: constant StreetEasy alerts, shitty brokers, despairing about what we'd have to give up. We saw one beautiful place on the top floor of a Fort Greene brownstone. It had a deliciously odd layout, and a skylight and teeny bed-sized bedroom. But since it was early on in the search and there was no garden or washer/dryer (despite being at the top of our budget), we decided to let it go and cross our fingers something else would come up.

Husband was scouring Craigslist one night in a last-ditch attempt at something phenomenal. And he found it: a two (two??) bedroom with backyard access, w/d in the basement, in a Cobble Hill brownstone.

It was an older listing, but he emailed the broker just to see. It turns out someone else had made an offer and flaked, so the broker agreed to let us see it without making any promises. She did warn us ahead of time that we'd have to charm the owner for even a chance in hell. (Spoiler: it worked.)

SO! Here she is, in all her before glory, starting with the living room money shots. Oh yeah baby:

Living room

Living room windows

Living room shelves

Oh look a handy video!
Living

I forgot to capture the wall behind me, but it has two doors that we won't use: one to the hallway, and one to a housekeeper's room. Then turning back to the left, there's a dining room nook—OH HERRO POCKET DOORS—that connects the rest of the apartment.
Living room toward Dining

Dining room, looking back (pocket door photo bomb).
Dining from Entryway

With husband for scale.
Dining from Entryway

Heading toward the front door (left), bathroom (sliding door ahead on the left), kitchen (straight ahead), and two bedrooms (ahead on the right)
Dining

The second bedroom is a small, pretty dark little room. It'll make a great office when we get allll the shit straightened up. Haha did I say office? I meant sewing room/homebrew cave/storage space.
Second bedroom

Second bedroom

Past the second bedroom.
Entryway

Looking into our bedroom.
Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom

Bedroom

And into the awesome kitchen. It looks narrow, but we easily fit a butcher block against the right wall.
Kitchen

The one sad part is the bathroom. I do love a good tub (not to mention plain white tile—I will literally never understand why contractors don't just use cheap-ass, classic, stunning subway tile), but it's fine. Sigh. I'm not over it.
Bathroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

On the other hand...
Backyard

A backyard! A literal physical, soil-filled yard! That we're fully invited to use, up to and including planting.

With the owner upstairs, the place is in near-perfect condition—a huge bonus, coming from A Situation where the deadbeat landlord literally bolted a huge sheet of metal onto the original wood floor rather than pay a professional to fix a quarter-sized hole. I have so many stories, guys.

Plus plus plus—mantle! Perfectly suited bookcases and a wardrobe from the previous tenants! POCKET DOORS. I mean.

Here was the immediate to do list:

  • Paint the sunny rooms blinding white and the dark ones a cozy gray/black. And we got a good start already. For the first time in my life, I paid someone to paint because I knew moving, then spending days on a ladder hurting my neck and trying to avoid dripping on my shit, was a situation I'd throw nearly any amount of money at to avoid. We even had the bookcases painted, so now everything looks a little more cohesive and sunny as FUCK. We'll decide on the rest later.
  • Cinderella the shit out of all our belongings. Our cobbled-together assortment of furniture is pretty raggedy, and I'm over a lot of the art. Plus, a not-so-humblebrag: the new place has more space, soooo ergo we need more stuff. I want to make sure the new stuff is lovely and lasting—check out my shopping list.

So here we are. It's actually HARD to leave in the mornings, because I just want to lay around and look at things. Stay tuned for an update eventually...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Before and After in Williamsburg

In 2012, then-boyfriend and I moved into THIS STARTLINGLY RUNDOWN, yet adorable, first-apartment-together apartment in Williamsburg. I had the presence of mind to catalogue our arrival.

Before:
Kitchen Facing the Bedroom

Cackling with glee, we rejoiced at our "one" "bedroom" "find" in a prime spot—no scare quotes for the location, because it genuinely is partay city. Fun when you're 24, less so at 28 (going on 100).

While we were a little bit stunned to see the decade-faded, stained scene in the weak light of moving day, we still knew we'd be able to turn the place around and make it our own. And over four and change years, we did.

After:
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Before:
Kitchen

After:
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Now, of course, I only see the flaws—low, peeling ceiling, troglodytic inner rooms, grody-ass bathroom, terrible neighbors, no doors. But for a young couple, the super cheap rent and unique layout was perfect. And we had the best bars and restaurants in the world right around the corner.

Before:
Couch

After:
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Before:
TV Area

After:
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Before:
Desk

After:
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Before:
Bedroom

Bedroom Windows

After:
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Before:
Closet

After:
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Fin. We decided to go for something bigger and brighter—and essentially double the rent—in a beeeeautiful new 'hood. So long, Williamsburg. New "before"s coming soon.

(Also aw this so cute.)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Rewards That Aren't Food or Shopping

I crossed paths with this delightful list of rewards that aren't food or shopping, and it inspired me to gather some of my own. I'm a biiiit of a sybarite, so I indulge in wonderful relaxing things as much as possible—proudly. Here's how I reward myself without food or shopping.


  • Weekend recovery sleep. Bonus if I can finagle coffee room service from the hot bellboy. (I can.)
  • Take a long lunch—whether it’s running errands or seeing what's new at Sephora.
  • Sing along to Joni Mitchell’s Blue from start to finish. Cry. Husband is not invited to the party. (Best song)
  • Catch up on blogs and then read the shit talking about said blogs on GOMI.
  • Find books to read and leave blunt (but fair) reviews for ones I hated on Goodreads.
  • Visit someplace new from my list. I’m determined to hit every good museum and garden in the area.
  • Use my very special PTO move: take off Monday and Friday for two instant long weekends.
  • Online window shop, then put anything cute safely into Covvet or add it to one of my many wish lists.
  • Take an extra Bar Method class, because I’ve become a deeply annoying person.
  • Borrow new goodies from the library or wander around the Strand.
A photo posted by Anna (@heyimanna) on

  • Finish an entire series on Netflix or Prime, even if I don’t love it—because finishing is the BEST.
  • Walk instead of taking the subway. Rent a Citibike instead of walking.
  • Spend some QT with my plants—pruning, polishing leaves, fertilizing, singing them lullabies… I have a dumb hippie belief that people should reconnect with their star signs when they get stressed. As a Taurus, I know hanging with a book in full view of my plants calms me down more than anything else. Except Valium. Those work great too.
  • Read a magazine. I get Martha Stewart Living and Bon Appetit, but I’m always game to sneak a gossip rag into the stack.
  • Plan a dream trip—but only the fun parts. Actual mind-bending details, like browsing flights or paying for anything, are horrible.
  • Do an extra-long pamper session. I always make time for my beauty routines—because ACNE!—but as a treat I’ll do a really long facial massage or use a bath bomb while drinking red wine, as God Herself intended.

A photo posted by Anna (@heyimanna) on

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Harry Potter Studio Tour, and Now I'm Dead

Okay, guys. GUYS? Guys, listen up. This whole thing is about the Harry Potter Studio Tour just outside of London. Naysayers can fook right off. Spoilers lurk around every corner. You’ve been warned.

Here we go!

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So. If you didn’t know, now you do: I’m a psychotic Harry Potter fan. And as a psychotic Harry Potter fan, I have had the pleasure of seeing two different Potter film museum exhibits over the years. As my three week sabbatical was drawing to a close—and this is the LAST POST, PROMISE—I wavered on whether or not to make the (essentially day-long) trek out of the city for the WB Harry Potter Studio Tour. Would it be worth it? Would I have fun alone? But on a whim, I snatched the last ticket available and got to planning.

Tip the first: if regular tickets are sold out—and they usually are, so book a month in advance—look for the more expensive ones that include an audio guide! I probably would have bought an audio guide there anyway, so I wasn’t fussed about the price. HOWEVER you do not need an audioguide to enjoy the tour whatsoever. In fact, most of it’s redundant and kind of gets in the way of the ambience of the whole thing. I was loosely using it by the end, if at all.

Tip the second: You MUST buy a ticket ahead of time since they have timed entry. I ended up getting there early and they let me in right away. I was on my own and nobody seemed to mind, but that might not be the case for everyone.

How do you get to the Harry Potter Studio Tour? Leavesden is located in Watford Junction, about 20 minutes train from Euston Station. The line is a very common commuter rail, meaning trains tend to leave at least once an hour. Euston has an army of helpful employees roaming around, so I swallowed my tourist pride and straight up asked for help. Wham, bam, done.

When you get to Watford Junction, a Harry Potter Tour double decker shuttle, which is disappointingly NOT modeled after the Knight Bus (stupid.) picks you up right outside the station for the quick trip to the experience. I think the bus cost about £2.50 round trip, and you need cash. Easy peasy.

Not expecting much, I wandered in early by myself and took a gander at the gift shop.

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And FREAKED OUT. This shit was LITTTTTTT! It only got so, so much better from there.

Really guys, spoilers ahoy:

When you walk into the experience, a small room with video screens introduces you to the series and gets everybody realll hyped up. When the kids, moms, adults in full costume are all frothing at fever pitch, the wall literally opens and you’re standing in front of the doors to the Great Hall. It sounded like a Beatles concert in there.

I’m not ashamed that it was the first of very many times I audibly gasped and/or said “WOOOOW” aloud to myself.

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As a group, you move into the Great Hall for a looksie. Unlike the great hall at Christ Church in Oxford, the movie set has less ceiling—but more purple light. Plus they have a few professor costumes. (Snape, sniff.)

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A tour guide gives a quick rundown, and then you’re let loose to do the rest of the trip at your own pace.

I was absolutely blown away by the sheer breadth of… everything.

Basically, the experience is broken up into two parts with a little cafeteria/outdoor space in between. The vast majority of it is set up like a museum, but there are a few hilariously overpriced “rides” or activities sprinkled throughout. As a 28-year-old woman there by herself, I passed up doing the broom flying experience. What would I even DO with a CGI video of myself flying a broom over London. But I completely got my fill on examining props and reading up on all the behind-the-scenes info.

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In the Mirror of Erised I see myself... at the Harry Potter Studio Tour.

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Dumbledore's office was probably the coolest complete set in the first half of the experience. So many teeny little details.

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The little cafeteria sells the usual theme-park grub, but it’s one of the three places in the world that sells Butterbeer. Butterbeer tastes like cream soda with some kind of sticky, solidified whipped cream on top. That’s a bingo.

As a nice bonus, the little rest area in the middle has an outside section with Privet Drive, the Knight Bus and the wonky wooden bridge from the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s perfect for stretching legs and trying to begin processing what is happening.

Of course, NOW I see that they do an afternoon tea, so obviously that would be a huge tipo numero tres for the next time.

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I licked most of the cream off my ‘beer and then boogied into the second part of the experience.

So, second half.

I loved the King’s Cross reconstruction—and getting to walk through the Hogwarts Express. After that, they also had a section filled with the paper goods and products designed for the movies. They were painstakingly detailed, and I could have spent an hour with my nose pressed up to the glass.

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Two sections really blew my face off. The first? Diagon Alley.

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Excuse me, would you please take a picture of me looking like I could die happy now?

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I think I did spend about 20 minutes here, walking up and down and looking into every window. It felt BIG, and they really know how to twist the knife with the theme music drifting out around you. 

And the second face blowing moment was the scale model of Hogwarts.

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This room was special. The castle is huge, and the room is designed to wrap around it, descending as the lighting shifts and changes from bright daylight to dusky purple. There are touchscreens that do mini tours of certain sections of the castle. Being able to see the care and detail put into every single angle of the castle was huge for me, as a fan.

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It took me a really long time to work through the room, but then I went happily out and into the gift shop. Nothing really tugged at me, although I did spend several minutes deliberating over a print by MinaLima, the graphic designers. Their work is also available online, and I’ve been trying to pick out a birthday present.

I’d say I spent about 2 hours total on the experience, with 10 minutes at most on the Butterbeer break. If I’d gone with another die-hard fan and had tea, it could have easily stretched to 3 hours. A determined individual could do it in 90 minutes.

Getting back to London was a breeze, since I floated back on a cloud. Yep. Best trip ever.