Sunday, April 25, 2010

Home Decorating: Cabinet Knobs

Now that our lease is signed and we are set to pick up our keys next weekend, my roommate and I are busy planning our new space! One of the less desirable aspects of our apartment are the kitchen cabinets which have ugly red plastic knobs on them. As if we shared a brain, roomie and I both uttered the same word at the same time after identifying this problem: Anthropologie.

Anthropologie has such a cute selection of home goods, and in particular they stock a lot of really pretty door handles and cabinet knobs. We picked out these painted porcelain ones to replace the plastic. I think it'll make our little kitchen look a little more rustic!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hunt is Over! My Apartment Hunting Tips

Wow, so that was quick. As you might remember, I've been looking for an apartment. I only started a little over a week ago, but I found the perfect place that my roommate also loved and we signed our lease this weekend! It's actually the place I posted about before on the Upper West Side with the brick walls! So excited!! We have so much space (it's actually a 3 bedroom place, but there are only two of us. We're going to turn the third room into a guest room/reading room!) and the natural sunlight that comes into the building is amazing!

We ended up getting the place for a really reasonable price -- the people who have the apartment above us that is the exact same layout pay $700 more per month to live there, so we're lucky! It all has to do with rent stabilization and turn over rates, but I stared at so many pieces of paper with legalese on them this weekend that I can't even talk about it anymore without getting a headache.

Our apartment is in a great UWS location that's in between Central Park and Riverside Park, near grocery stores, restaurants, cafes, and around the corner from Blockheads and Ben and Jerry's. My two vices: margaritas and ice cream! I can't wait to start moving in after May 1st -- I'll probably clean everything before I move in stuff, but I'm hoping to be all moved in by May 15th! Until then, I will probably just incessantly browse the web for home furnishings.

A few people commented on my other post asking about how I found the apartments I've been looking at, so here are some of my tips for you:
  • Most brokers won't be too interested in you unless you are pretty much ready to sign a lease as soon as you see the place you like. They suggested to me that I plan on looking about two weeks ahead of when I want to move (yeah, I know -- yikes!). This seems to be true though, since technically my lease starts May 1st and I signed two weeks ahead of time.
  • That said, don't be afraid to make appointments to look at places more than two weeks ahead of time. It's good to get a feel for what's out there in your price range. Unfortunately this was a bit of a shock for me at first, but knowing what areas of town were better to look in made things easier.
  • Speaking of budget, try to figure out how much you can allow for rent each month. It's easier to start looking in your price range so that you aren't disappointed after you find your dream place and discover that you can't afford it. Typically realtors tell you to stay around 25% of your annual income.
  • Where should you look? This is a tricky question! I looked a lot on Craigslist. I know that it can be sketchy, but I ultimately found the broker that I rented through on Craigslist. It's sort of important to note that my apartment was never listed online (to my knowledge anyway), but the broker showed it to me when I came to look at another place that I'd seen advertised. Most realtors have a few properties within the same area, so be prepared to look at a few if you make an appointment.
  • StreetEasy is also another option, and is more legit than Craigslist. It is an NYC realty site and has cool features that can tell you a little bit about the neighborhoods that you are looking at too.
I hope that this helps a little bit! I'm totally new to this process too, but I'll let you know if I find out any more apartment tips!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Matrix Monday!

Yesterday was one of the biggest days of the year in the communications field -- the Matrix Awards! Each year, New York Women in Communications honors successful women within the industry at this ceremony, and this year's lineup was star-studded to say the least. I was fortunate to be invited to the luncheon, and I got to hear some inspirational stories and advice from women that I really admire.

The big buzz surrounding the event was an appearance by none other than Oprah. Her best friend, Gayle King, was honored for her work at O Magazine and Oprah presented the award to her. She gave a lovely speech about Gayle and called her an "MSF"; mother, sister and friend. Awww!

The most inspirational speech came from Doris Kearns Goodwin, an incredibly intelligent historian who has written best-selling books about U.S. presidents and her other love: baseball. She shared stories about her youth -- both about losing her mother at an early age, and about reinforcing her love of history through the ritual of giving her father play-by-play stories about the baseball games he had missed while at work.

The funniest speech by far was that of Tina Fey. She was honored for television, and her award was presented by Seth Meyers. By the time Tina and Seth were finished, the entire Waldorf ballroom was laughing at jokes about Tina and Sheryl Crowe's almost identical dresses and at stories about how Tina has succeeded in the very male-dominated business of comedy writing.

I have no idea how they will top this year's Matrix Awards, but I'm already looking forward to next year!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Apartment Hunting: The Saga Continues

This weekend I did a lot of apartment hunting. As much as it was fun and exciting, it was also sort of exhausting. When you go out with a landlord or realtor to look at places, you'll probably see a bunch of places in different price ranges with different fees and utilities, so it's easy to get things mixed up!

I started off on Saturday in the East Village. I'll be working in SoHo, so I figured that it would be cool to live in a neighborhood that I like and be able to walk to work. Unfortunately, this first day of searching was a harsh reality check on how much I can afford -- all of the places I saw were SO TINY and SO EXPENSIVE! The apartments were all two bedroom "wing" style, which means that there is a kitchen with a (tiny) bedroom off each side. No living area or common space. And these places on 2nd Avenue and Avenue C were going for nearly $2,000 a month before utilities. No way!

 Today was more encouraging. I looked at places on the Upper West Side, and felt a little relieved that there were places that I could see myself living that were also within my price range. I looked at a two bedroom place on West 106th Street that I really liked -- nice kitchen, big rooms and common space, and some exposed brick walls. I love exposed brick walls! As a bonus, I actually have a friend who lives on the same block and loves the neighborhood, so I know that it will be a nice place to live. My potential roommate is coming to take a look at the place this week, so I finally feel like this search is going somewhere.

I really love the fact that all of the places I've been looking at are pre-war buildings. They all have hardwood floors and awesome high ceilings. Most of them that I've seen have been renovated, but some are in tough shape. I guess you just have to be careful and do your research before you sign on a place!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spot Dessert Bar

I usually get a craving around 4 o'clock in the afternoon for something sweet, and this weekend I caved in and went to Spot Dessert Bar on St. Mark's Place in those few hours before dinner. Oops!

Spot opened in December in a cool little basement space, and the decor is sort of earthy and fun. The menu is pretty simple and consists of only dessert items and drinks. Despite this being a dessert "bar" there is no alcohol served, but they have a pretty good selection of coffee and tea, including bubble tea.

 The desserts are pretty good here, and I am a fan of the cupcakes! Not only are they creative (try the sea salt caramel cupcake!), but they also come with edible sparkles on top. And really, you can't beat a sparkly cupcake.

The prices at Spot are sort of high -- you'll pay almost $3 for a cupcake and $4 for a Thai Iced Coffee -- but if you want to treat yourself, it's a fun place. Also keep in mind that if you plan to sit and eat at the restaurant, it's table service only, so you'll have to tip a waiter as well.

13 St. Mark's Place
6 to Astor Place

Friday, April 9, 2010

Cheap Eats: Hummus Kitchen

Do you find that warm weather makes you crave healthier foods? I do! In general, I tend to crave heavier foods during the cold months and fresh foods like vegetables and fruit during the summer! In celebration of the beautiful weather that we've been having, I want to go to Hummus Kitchen this weekend!

As the name implies, they serve up delicious, fresh hummus with warm pita. Yummmm! Of course, they have a full menu with wraps, but I really like the Mazze mixed platter. For $9, you can get a sampling of three different mazze (appetizers) with warm pita. The traditional hummus is fantastic, but I also recommend the oven-roasted cauliflower! So good! I am somewhat of a cauliflower lover so I might be biased, but I don't see how someone couldn't love this dish. Although it isn't the best I've ever had, HK serves a pretty tasty Babaganush (a roasted eggplant mixture) as well.

When I ate here last year, the weather was beautiful and we sat in front of a big open window that kept the air fresh while still allowing us to be out of the sun. There is outdoor seating as well! I'd recommend going on a weekend afternoon and ordering two mazze sampler plates to share and two glasses of sangria to wash it down with!

Hummus Kitchen
768 9th Avenue
C,E to 50th Street

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Apartment Hunt is On

These last few weeks have been incredibly busy, but I am happy to say that I am officially an employed college senior. I won't go into the details of my employment here (blogging about work is Blogging Cardinal Sin #1, right?), but let's just say that I'm extremely happy and excited.

Now that I know I'll be staying in New York, I need to find an apartment. Oh boy. I've always sort of casually browsed apartment listings in preparation for the day when I would finally move out of the Bronx and into... anywhere else, but thinking about it and actually doing it are two different things!

It seems that every Craigslist post that I respond to ends up being totally scammy -- note that if you get a reply that explains that the person had to leave the country suddenly and is renting out the apartment for a ridiculously low price, it's a scam. Amazingly I've had two variations on the same story: man with apartment on Upper West Side is in London either serving as a pastor or studying theology. Ack.

I'm going to try using a broker to find something, but then there's the other problem: I don't have a roommate. Miraculously, all of my friends are either moving away/out of the country, going to grad school, or live in New Jersey within commuting distance of the city. So then, how does one find a roommate? I'm pretty sure I can't afford to live on my own, but I also would prefer to find a place with someone as opposed to moving into someone else's preexisting space. And yes, I've checked Craigslist and let me tell you there are some WEIRD "roommate" requests on there!

So, I'll keep you updated on my NYC Real Estate progress and maybe if my apartment can handle more than 3 people at a time, I'll have a party to celebrate! Oh, and just in case you're wondering, I'm not really expecting a doorman at my building. Someday though... :)