Sunday, April 23, 2017

Potter Hard: Welcome to the Wizarding World

The great pleasure of my adult life—the entire raison d’ĂȘtre for growing up and working all the time—is spending my money on the things I enjoy most. Namely: Harry Potter tourism.

Even if you don’t like Harry Potter you’d probably enjoy The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida, because it’s engineered for good fucking times. Let me explain by comparing it to Epcot, which I visited on the third day of my epic trip.

1. Incredible attention to detail.

The Epcot version of London is olde timey ye olde shitty tea shop, awkwardly laid out footie-themed gift shop, and a Playskool castle.

The Wizard World of Harry Potter London is a grimy, layered wonderland cobbled together under Leadenhall/Borough Market-lookalike with hand-painted signs, hidden alleyways, regular rumbling Overground, and spitting mad dragon.

2. The rides.

Epcot offers the WORST rides in the WORLD. Highlights include the (original) Bush-era biodiversity boat ride around a sunbleached greenhouse and a Mexican fiesta through a deeply unsettling puppet lair.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides made me freak out, but in a good way—I rode the Hogwarts one twice (yay me!). And while queues were super easy thanks to our off-season visit, the waiting in line part was THE BEST part. Because we got to see Hogwarts and Gringotts in up close, excruciating detail.

3. Booze.

Other amusement parks, bless them, sort of hide the mommyjuice because there are kids. Fucking. Everywhere.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter sells special beers, a cider, and WHISKEY at every restaurant and bar on the premises. And people go for it.

Okay? Convinced? Still with me? Here’s how it all went down:



I roped a few friends into doing two days at Universal and a morning at Epcot during the low season (according to handy crowd calendar). The timing was key—I would never go back during high season, because it would be a total nightmare.

We stayed at the glorious Cabana Bay Beach Resort because it was the cheapest spot on the premises, but I was incredibly impressed: the theme was mid-century motel, and it WORKED.

Top to bottom it was a delight, from the authentic colors to the furniture (especially the poolside setup) and the in-room toiletries designed to look like vintage VO5 and Pert. I mean the gift shop had vintage mannequins wearing 50s shorts, guys. I was in heaven. Yes the beds were hard and the sheets scratchy, but there was a huge hot tub and we ate in the bowling alley twice. So.

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The major benefit of staying on the property was getting into Hogsmeade an hour before it officially opened. That first morning, we just got up a little bit early, grabbed some delicious Vacation Starbucks™ from the lobby, slapped on SPF50, and waddled over to the park on foot.

The Wizarding World is actually split into two parks (two parks = two tickets = double the money, obvs). Hogsmeade is in the Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios.

This is how we did two days, and it worked perfectly:

Day 1:

Start at Hogsmeade

Do the Hogwarts ride

Eat lunch at the Three Broomsticks

Take the Express to Diagon Alley

Do the Gringotts ride



Day 2:

Start at Diagon Alley

Eat lunch at the Leaky Cauldron

Take the Express to Hogsmeade

Do the Hogwarts ride again

With some other Universal attractions sprinkled in for some variety.

So. We arrived, freaked out, and then went to get some fucking wands.


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Friday, March 24, 2017

It me

Oh hey oh my god! It's me!

Many things have happened: I switched jobs, I went to Harry Potter World, I'm planning England History Fuckfest Part II, my apartment looks more like an After.

I'll tell you about it, but in the meantime—if you miss me—follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my newsletter here. (You can see what it's all about in the Letter Archive.)

Okay good cool see ya.

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.)