City DIY Mini-series: Studs and Stud Muffins

9 Aug

Ok, so as you know from our last little foray into the world of DIY projects, IKEA-furniture-building is wonderfully simple. My Expedit bookshelf that I reassembled is up and it is sturdy!  But on to the big guns.

You know what wasn’t sturdy?  My bedroom closet.  When I first began piling my belongings into it, after the move-in, it occurred to me that the top shelf and rod spanned a pretty long distance (76 inches, to be exact).  But I was possessed by move-in madness.  All I wanted was to get everything put AWAY.  So, I packed that closet full, and I shut the door.  Out of sight, out of mind.

And then, like a true space-cadet, I forgot all about it.  Closet?  Shelf that’s bowing under the weight of a mountain of crap?  What on Earth are you talking about?  Yup, I’d forgotten all about my initial closet worry until one Friday night while I was watching TV.  I heard the loudest thud come from the bedroom, and thought “what on earth could have made that sound?!”  This:

If you can’t tell from my photography skillzzzz, the picture you’re staring at is showing a closet’s worth of shit, in a lump on the floor.  Nice.  One of the side supports for the top shelf of the closet had pulled right out of the wall.  It clearly had not been screwed into any studs – just the flimsy old sheetrock.  So, with the weight of my belongings, the whole shelf just came tumbling down, and it pulled down the whole rod of clothes, in it’s path (in my haste and panic, I actually removed the fallen shelf and shelf-contents prior to taking the photos…sorry!).  UGH!  Closet fixing/re-organizing = not how I wanted to spend a Friday night.

I busted out my tool box to see if I had anything that might help me reinforce the supports (and screw the fallen support piece back into the wall.  But alas, my poor wimpy screwdriver was not going to get the job done.

Before it got too late, I headed over to the local hardware store and bought myself a decent drill and a stud-finder, and I set out to get that closet fixed immediately.  I couldn’t stand looking at the mess of clothes and linens all over the bedroom floor.  Initially, I thought I’d screw in a bunch of reinforcing wood pieces below the original supports (if the primary support beam ever pulled out of the wall, I figured the lower one would “catch” it).  However, in talking to my dad, I learned that just screwing an additional piece of wood below the existing one would not actually do jack shit, despite the fact that it all seemed good in my head.

But, he assured me that if I found the studs and made sure to screw directly into them, the shelf and rod should hold up just fine.  So, that’s what I did.  In the picture below, the black dots are the screws I put in, into the studs (I did the same thing on all three support sides), with an additional screw in the middle.  The other random screws that the builder put in are not really even close to the studs.  4-star contracting.

As a final additional safety measure, my dad suggested (and brought right to my doorstep!) a closet rod and shelf support bracket.  It, too, was drilled into a stud, and the whole shelf and rod feel SO much more stable now.

So, rule number 1:  FIND STUDS!   For those who are still scratching their heads about what a stud is (don’t worry, I’m a construction idiot, too – you should have seen me trying to use the damn drill!), it’s a vertical beam in your wall.  When you screw into it, the screw is secured directly into the wood of the stud, resulting in a strong hold.  If you don’t find a stud when hanging something on a wall then you’re just securing the screw into sheetrock…which isn’t really secure at all.

If your sheetrock wasn’t there, your studs would look like this:

Or this:

Just kidding.  What?  No Dirty Dancing maniacs out there?  Just me?  Weren’t you wondering where the “stud muffin” part of the title was going to come in?

Ok, for serious.  The lesson here is that if you see a closet or shelf or cabinet that doesn’t look too sturdy when you move in, don’t just load it down with heavy items and assume it will hold.  Ask your super or landlord to fix it or reinforce it (taking care of apartment issues is what they’re there for!).  Or, in a case like mine, just take the ten minutes to ensure that the screws are all going into studs.  And maybe go the extra mile to put up a support bracket.  Better safe than sorry (especially if you have 2 kitties who like to sleep in your closet All. Day. Long.)!

And one more time for good measure, here is what a SAFE closet looks like:


Got a stud story?  Studs OR stud muffins are welcome here.  Tell me about it!


Images:  (5) Four Brothers Carpentry, (6) Synfully Delicious, All others Rebecca for Happy City Living


City DIY Mini-series: Construction-free DIY

4 Aug

So, I LOVE a zillion different DIY blogs.  My first foray into the make-your-house-cool-all-by-yourself world was via Young House Love.  I’ve mentioned them before, and I feel the need to do so again, because they have what is quite possibly the best blog of all time.  Haha – ok, a little over the top, but to me they’re great.  Sherry and John Petersik are former NYC’ers (woo woo!) who bought and renovated a house in Richmond, VA a few years ago.  In order to keep their family up to date on their progress, they started a blog.  But then every DIY-er on the internet got addicted to the blog, and now these two adorable lovebirds are professional, full-time, DIY bloggers (along with their cutesy baby, Clara, and their hilarious chihuahua, Burger).  They recently bought a new house, and I’m glued to the screen every day on my lunch break, as I catch up with their latest projects.

Aren't they adorable?! Click the link above and check them out!

But, out of the suburbs and back to city life:  basically, apartment dwellers like you and me have to just drool over homeowner DIY projects from afar.  Half the time our leases restrict us from making any improvements or modifications to our homes, and the rest of the time it just doesn’t pay off to put money into a place you don’t own.  So, painting walls and hanging pictures is as far as my DIY projects tend to stretch.

Until recently.

Right after I moved into my apartment, I stumbled upon a couple of minor (but not so minor for me) household issues.  So, I thought I’d share a few of them with you.  Over the next week or so, I’ll share a few little stories and ideas that will make you feel like a DIY-ing homeowner, rather than a flush-money-down-the-toilet-every-month renter.  Maybe you’re another city-dweller dreaming about having space to use a table-saw or a sewing machine.  If so, we can totally be BFFs.

Let’s start small, though.  Today, we’ll delve into the joys of constructing IKEA furniture.

I should say this to start:  IKEA is beautifully accessible for city folk.  If you’re living in Mid-Upper Manhattan or the Bronx, there is a free shuttle bus that leaves regularly from the Port Authority Bus Terminal, that will take you to the IKEA in northern New Jersey.  From Lower Manhattan, take the free ferry from the Financial District to the IKEA in Red Hook, Brooklyn.  If you’re in Queens or Brooklyn, take the free shuttle bus from Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn, to the IKEA in Red Hook.

My sister and me, on the IKEA ferry (slash water taxi). See the store in the background? The boat brings you right up to the back door, practically!

Ok, so you had a fun carnival-like day at IKEA (how do they manage to make that place SO FUN!?), and you lugged home boxes that were ridiculously heavy, full of furniture parts.  Now, you have to put everything together.  IKEA-ing is prototypical city DIY work.  It makes us feel like we’re doing work around the house, but no power tools are involved, and there’s no need for a huge workspace.  Woo woo!

Putting together Ikea furniture is my idea of a good time.  I like working on puzzles and building things, whenever I can.  If I buy a new gadget or home item, I feel an unstoppable urge to get that item set up or assembled right away.  So, after moving, I began reconstructing my Expedit bookshelf from IKEA as soon as I’d cleared enough floor space in my new abode.

Here is a pic of the Expedit during de-construction. Might give you an idea of how it goes together. See the pegs sticking out of the shelf?

These are the pegs. Vader thought they were fun to gnaw on. I'm an awful cat parent.

I was concerned about how well the unit would hold up once I took it apart, transported it, and then reassembled.  However, the process went very smoothly, and putting the shelves back together was quite simple, actually.  The whole enchilada goes together with a bunch of wooden pegs and 8 screws.  Easy peasy.  Back when we bought the Expedit I’d read online that the most efficient method of putting it together was just to use a hammer to secure the wooden pegs in place, and that is certainly the way to go.  So, this time, in about 45 minutes, I had the shelf fully assembled, lying in the middle of my living room floor.  Problem was, I couldn’t get the damn thing to stand up.

When I first realized I couldn’t lift the unit, my plan was to hoist one corner of it and shimmy a pillow underneath the bottom edge to prop it up.  I figured once it was no longer flush against the floor, I’d be able to get a better grip and I’d be all set.  A crowbar would have been the perfect hoisting tool, except that I was so afraid of scratching my gloriously shiny new floors.

Unfortunately, without a crowbar, I couldn’t even get the shelf off the ground the couple of inches I needed to slide the pillow under.  Damn.  I tried and tried to move this thing until I was sitting in the middle of the living room, sweating buckets and completely frustrated.

This is not one of those posts where I tell you some cool trick to hoist a large bookshelf on your own.  There is no such trick.  Consider this more of a reassurance that your IKEA furniture should be able to travel well and be reassembled – assuming you treat it with a little gentle loving kindness.  Also consider this a warning that you should wait to put any large furniture together until you have another person there to help stand it up.  Or, take it upon yourself to go make friends with one of your new neighbors.

My sister was in town that weekend, and once we were able to get our fingers under the unit, it was super easy to hoist the unit all the way up (the shelves were empty, afterall).  But even with two sets of hands, the initial task of grasping the shelves enough to lift it and prop something under the edge was a sweat-inducing endeavor.  The largest version of Expedit (5 shelves tall by 5 shelves wide) is just extremely heavy and you end up scared to death that you’ll chop off all your fingers if you somehow get them caught underneath the bookself without a firm grip.

See the screw in the top corner? There are 8 in the whole unit, and the shelves come with the little allen keys that you need to screw them in. The rest of the parts involved are just the pegs.

Tah-dahhh! Hoisted!

So, for all the IKEA fans out there:  you can get to IKEA super easily in NYC, which means you’ll have all the put-shit-together projects your little heart desires, right at your fingertips.  No need for a car or any stressful travel arrangements.  No need for any real construction or equipment.  Also, if and when you move apartments any oversized IKEA furniture will likely travel well, if you dismantle it.  My Expedit bookshelf is just as sturdy now as it was upon the initial assembly.  Just make sure you have another set of hands ready when it comes to lifting that sturdy unit.  Or hit the gym and build up those biceps!

Coming up: fake sewing, hanging art on stud-less walls, closet collapses, and mini-makeovers!  Stay tuned, all you DIY-loving urbanites!

What Life Is All About

27 Jul

Last month, my godfather, Uncle Nick, passed away after a long battle with numerous health problems.  He was one of the best people I know.  He meant the world to my family, and we miss him so very much.

Uncle Nick was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, whether he knew you or not…and then he’d pour you a glass of his homemade wine, feed you a dinner big enough for a whole army, and probably repair something in your house.  He had so many wonderful qualities and talents, but the best one, in my opinion, was the absolute kindness and friendliness he exuded every day of his life.  That is what I remember most about him, and that is what I try to emulate in my own life.

My family, circa 1987. Uncle Nick is on the far right. I'm sitting on my mom's lap. Like that old school wallpaper and paneling?

So, in honor of a wonderful human being, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about the wonderful people I meet every day in NYC.  New Yorkers get a bad rap, and it annoys me to no end.  Of course in a population of millions there are sure to be some bad apples.  But in my experience, there are many more nice people walking past you on the street, than there are bad ones.  In this town, the areas you live in and frequent become your community.  People greet one another with “good morning” and ask about each others’ families.  They look out for one another.

My first experience with nice New Yorkers was my breakfast cart guy at NYU, during my freshman year of college.  He knew I was going to order a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and a cup of tea, and every morning he gave me a warning about burning my tongue on the tea:  “wait a minute to drink this, sweetheart, it’s really hot.  And for you, only a dollar for everything.”

Since that first experience, I’ve met so many friendly food folks around the city:  in Harlem, at Miss Maude’s, my friend Damion had food ready for me every Wednesday night.  He’d sit and chat with me while I ate dinner.  At my favorite Mexican Place, Tajin, the proprietor knows my order and even corrected Agent Owens when he tried to order me the wrong meal once.  The halal cart guy near my Battery Park apartment used to commiserate with his regulars about rising rent costs.

But foodies aren’t the only nice guys ‘round these parts (like that rural talk?).  Last month, after Uncle Nick died, a woman saw me crying on the subway (I mentioned I was a mess that month, didn’t I?), and she came over to offer me tissues and ask if I was ok.  And a few days later, on a different subway car, my boss’s AMEX credit card was returned to him by a fellow straphanger after it fell out of his pocket.

One good citizen actually took things a step further when I used to work near Penn Station.  In a super crowded area of town, my driver’s license fell out of my wallet, and I actually didn’t notice until a few days later.  Before I even had time to get to the DMV for a replacement, my ID showed up in my mailbox.  A kindhearted lawyer (apparently that’s not an oxymoron) took the time to mail it back to me.  Similarly, a taxi driver once returned my dorm keys and school ID to the nearest NYU building, where I was later able to retrieve them.

Small, random acts of kindness happen all over this city every single day.  You may not notice them if you’re busy looking at skyscrapers on a quick trip through town.  But if you live here, take a look around.  You’ll see young men helping old women cross the street.  You’ll see someone help a blind stranger to maneuver through a subway station.  Someone will carry a stoller up a set of stairs for a young mom or give up their seat on the subway for a pregnant woman.  A delivery man will stop and ask you if you need help finding where you’re going, as you stand on a street corner trying to orient yourself.  And those drowsy folks you pass by on your morning commute will stop to say hello, if you just share a smile with them.

So, I’m asking for this:  this week, in memory of my Uncle Nick, and in the spirit of infusing a bit of good in the world, do something nice for another person.  It doesn’t have to be anything big or showy – just something to make another person’s day a little brighter.  Show folks that New Yorkers are big-hearted people.  That we’re considerate and conscientious people.  It would have been Uncle Nick’s birthday this past week, and I think he’d consider it a nice gift to know that a group of people (many of whom he never even met) passed along the kindness he always displayed.  What a nice legacy to leave behind.


Images:  Rebecca for Happy City Living

Hot Hot Hot!

22 Jul

Yes, it is still hot outside in NYC.  In fact, when I went to my favorite free yoga in Bryant Park tonight, it was still 93 degrees – at 6 PM!  Let’s just say it was more like a sweat-bucket bikram yoga class (typically held at around 130 degrees) than your average breezy outdoor practice.

But the weather isn’t all that’s hot.  The rental market in Manhattan is still scorching.  How do I know this?  All the requests I’ve been getting for help finding an apartment!  I have received a ton of wonderfully enthusiastic emails from friends-of-friends and even complete strangers lately, looking to rent in NYC.  Some folks are looking for real estate agent assistance (gotcha covered), and a lot more folks just have questions about apartments they’ve seen or situations they’ve encountered.  Seems like everyone wants a piece of the New York (well played, all of you city lovers)!

I love talking about all the great neighborhoods in this town and helping to navigate the sometimes-daunting rental market here.  So, I’m more than happy to answer as many questions as I can.  Keep the emails coming!

There are, however, a few questions that I pose to everyone in the midst of a search.  When you decide to seriously start looking for an apartment, here are the things you should figure out prior to delving in:

  1. What are you comfortable paying, and what would be the absolute most you’d be willing to spend?
  2. Where is your preferred area or neighborhood?  If you have questions about different neighborhoods, feel free to shoot me a note or just to Google them (what on Earth did we all do before Google?).
  3. What are your size and space requirements?  How many bedrooms do you need?  Is the main living space more important, or is the bedroom size more important?  Is a convertible apartment an option, if you’re in share situation?
  4. When do you need to move?  Is your move-in date flexible?  Or is it constrained by the end of another lease?
  5. Are you prepared to pay a fee?  In a hot market, fees are the norm (expect to dole out 1-2 months of the year’s rent).  If you don’t want to pay up, are you willing to move farther out from lower Manhattan?

If you answer all these questions ahead of time, your search will be much easier.  I promise you, these are the questions any listing agent or management company will ask – or should ask!  Be honest and realistic about what you need and what your limitations are.  Then, just try to stay realistic and open-minded, and you’ll be ready to search.  Happy hunting, and stay cool!

Tell me about any great (or not-so-great) apartment deals you’ve gotten lately!  Has anyone been struggling to find a place?  Have you run into questions along the way?  Share with the class!


Image:  Bryant Park Blog

Hot Town, Summer In the City

17 Jul

Fact:  I am a summer person.  Sun, sand, and water give me my mojo back.

Gross Fact:  I sweat buckets as soon as the temperature reaches 80 degrees outside (ok, 75).  Then, I turn lobster red in the face and feel like I’m going to pass out.  Fun times, right?

So how’s a girl (or guy) supposed to cool down in the land of pavement, during the heat of the summer?  Sure, some days you’re in the AC at work (boo).  But on a beautiful sunny day, like today, you need real relief from the heat.  And, believe it or not, NYC has you covered.  So, the next time you’re dripping with sweat by 8 AM, give these options a try…


NYC has got it going on in the parks department.  In Connecticut, where I’m from, a park is a mere destination for use of a ball field or a playground.  But, in NYC, city folks put our amazing parks to good use.  Truly, every few blocks you’ll find a park.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this website, where you can enter your zip code or address to find some green space near you.

One of my fave NYC park spots is Sheep Meadow at Central Park. It's ideal for sunbathing, frisbee, picnics, and a constant supply of illegal but thirst-quenching beer cooler guys. Oh, and the view is nothing to scoff at.

The big mamas of NYC parks are:

  • Central Park (Manhattan)Central Park is ridiculously big, in proportion to the rest of Manhattan.  You can get lost in it very easily, with its winding paths and secluded spaces, so plan before you go.  Or at least plan on an afternoon of getting lost in Manhattan’s version of nature.  Central Park features a reservoir, huge lawns, ball fields, an ice rink, a zoo, a castle, row boats, bike paths, concert areas…I could go on forever.  Check it out.  It doesn’t disappoint.
  • Prospect Park (Brooklyn) – I tend to think of Prospect Park as the Central Park of Brooklyn.  It’s huge and it has a lot to offer.  Features also include, expansive fields, botanic gardens, ball fields, a lake, concerts, festivals, and a zoo.  If you live in a neighborhood surrounding this park, you must go over and explore.
  • Pelham Bay Park (Bronx) – You will completely forget you’re in the city when you head over to Pelham Bay Park.  Featuring a large beach, a sizeable picnic area, ball fields, and actual parking areas (!!!!!) Pelham Bay Park has everything to make a Bronx resident’s life pleasant in the summer.
  • Flushing Meadows Corona Park (Queens) – The site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs, this massive park in Queens features a wildlife center, a museum, and a theater.  And that’s before I even mention its natural beauty.  Add this park to your list of must-do’s in the city, and if you’re a Queens resident, head over there to relax, sun bathe, and picnic.
  • The Greenbelt (Staten Island) – Although my relationship with Staten Island is green (to say the least), I can tell you that the Greenbelt is an area of over 2500 acres of parks, trails, and nature-y goodness.  If you really want to feel like you’ve left the universe that is NYC, head on over there to check out truly unadulterated natural area.  The ferry ride to SI is free, so make it a cheap day-trip.

But NYC parks are not a go-big-or-go-home kind of deal.  Some of the best parks in the city are seemingly untouched little gems.  If you’ve got kids, maybe check out the waterworks at the Madison Square Park playground.  If you’re an uptown BBQ’er hit up St. Nicholas Park in Harlem.  Like to fish?  Check out the piers on East River Park.  Concert-lover?  Try Fort Greene Park.  Kayaker?  Meander over to the Downtown Boathouse at Hudson River Park.  And if you really think there’s something you want to do that you can’t find in a city park, send me a note.  I’ll find it for you.  And prove you wrong.  Type A?  Yes sir.

Oh, you're a bocce buff? We've got that covered.


Oh you thought you were going to say, “What if I want to go swimming?  In a real pool.”  Well NYC’s parks and rec department is here to grant your chlorine-loving wishes.  Pools are scattered in parks throughout the city – there are 54 of them, in fact.

Plunge, kid. Plunge.

Lasker Pool is located in the northern reaches of Central Park and features an Olympic pool and a wading pool, and like all the city pools it’s open from the end of June, up through Labor Day.  Sunset Park also features a large pool in Brooklyn.  Up in Harlem, there is a pool at the park right across from Riverton (where I lived).  And if a “regular” pool just doesn’t tickle you pink, how about a pool on a barge?  Head up to the Bronx to try out the Floating Pool, docked for the summer.  If you’re looking for something closer to home, visit the pool page on the city’s website here.


My favorite way to stay cool in the summer is to just have a good old fashioned beach day.  Sand and surf is required for my wellbeing during the months of June, July, and August.  And, again, NYC does not disappoint.  The beaches are a bit of a further trek than your local parks and pools, but, in my opinion, they are worth it!  The trick is to find the beach that is closest to your apartment, while also being accessible via a nearby subway line.

When I lived in Sunset Park, the famous Coney Island was the most convenient place to go.  This beach/amusement park area is JAM PACKED with people.  Loud music, loud people, and good times are the most notable features of this little strip of coastline.  There are a zillion places to eat along the boardwalk, and there are easily-accessible bathroom facilities.  Want a cold (and illegal) brew?  Some dude will pull a cooler full of beers around within 5 minutes of you sitting down.  And if you need something just a bit quieter, head down Brighton Beach, next door to Coney.  That southern section of the Brooklyn coastline is littered with beach options.  If you’re jazzed by the thought of Coney Island, though, be a tacky as you’d like, and ENJOY!

Coney Island. Please note that you cannot see the water behind my girlies in this picture - that's because the MASS OF HUMANITY is blocking the nice view of the water.

A beach favorite of mine, with calmer waters, is Orchard Beach in the Bronx.  Part of Pelham Bay Park, this shoreline can be just as packed as Coney Island.  However, the noticeably absent waves can make it a safer choice for little ones.  Plus, if you live uptown, Orchard Beach is probably your closest option, in terms of proximity.

Today, I took my first trip out to Rockaway Beach (Beach 60, to be exact), and I have to say, it may be my fave.  Rockaway has a loooooong beach, and depending on where you lay your towel, you can have a crowded or secluded experience.  The beauty of Beach 60 was that it was quiet all morning, and then had a little bit of activity, for my people-watching pleasure (what can I say, I’m a starer), in the afternoon.  The waves were perfection for water lovers, but a bit rough for the faint-of-surf.  The downsides of Rockaway were that Beach 60 had no food spots in the immediate area and no bathrooms.  My friends and I brought drinks and bought snacks at a small convenience store, but there weren’t many any options beyond that.  I am told, though, that there’s an area of Rockaway where a taco truck pulls up.  And fear not, I’ll be searching for that the next time I venture out to Rockapulco, and I’ll pass along any info I discover.  With over 7 miles of beach, there’s food somewhere.  It’s just a case of finding it.

Rockaway Beach 60. See all that open beach space? Let's all say ahhhhhh together.

For more info on the city’s beaches, click here.

So there you have it:  all the 411 on summers in the city.  I hope you’re sunkissed by the next time we chat.  With that, I need to go put some aloe on my slightly-burned back.  Ah, summer.

Images:  (1, 2, & 3) NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, (4 & 5) Rebecca for Happy City Living

My gift to you: Dough(nuts)

13 Jul

There is a magical place in Brooklyn.  For some reason, people don’t talk about it every single day and write songs about it and build temples to it.  And I’m unclear as to why they do not.  More importantly, I’m unclear as to why my Brooklyn peeps never mentioned it to me (side eye to all of you).

It’s called Dough.  As in dense, doughy, baked goodness.

I’d like to pre-qualify this rave review by saying that I am not a doughnut person.  I’m not into desserts or super sweet things. Give me a bowl of pasta any day over a baked good.  One day, though, the doughnut gods brought me a coconut cream doughnut from Donut Plant in the Lower East Side, and I was smitten.  But shortly thereafter, I moved out of Manhattan, and I worried that I’d never again wake up on a Saturday morning and be in close proximity to a doughnut I loved.  Silly me.  Knowing there is always a plethora of specialty food joints in the city (of every type and cost), I turned to the interwebs to help me find more fried, sweet deliciousness, closer to my new hood.  And the interwebs told me I needed to go to Dough.

On the corner of Franklin and Lafayette, in Bed-Stuy, Dough is a little baking factory that produces the most perfectly dense, delectably sweet, melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts of all time.  These gooey devils are big; they’re only $2 each; and they’re in seemingly never-ending supply.  Unlike my old friend, Donut Plant, Dough makes a continual supply of doughnuts all day – if you show up after 11 AM, you’re not in danger of missing out on your fave flave.


My first experience with the shop happened last weekend.  In an effort not to pine for Manhattan on Saturday, I set out on a walking tour of my new hood.  I found tons of cute little restaurants and shops that I made mental notes to check out.  I walked to Target twice (it’s only 15 minutes away, on foot!).  And, I ate TWO giant Dough doughnuts.  It was ridiculous how full I was, but I Could. Not. Stop.  I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking:

The chocolate-covered one (with cocoa “nibs”) made its Dunkin’ Donuts counterparts look like garbage – and that had always been my favorite as a kid.  But for me, the real show-stopper at Dough was the glazed guy.  Think Krispy Kreme, minus the feeling of “that was gone so fast that I feel like I just ate air”.  These donuts have substance.  They’ve got just the right amount of moisture and density in the cake part, and the toppings are perfectly complementary in proportion.  But they still melt when they hit your tongue.  My mouth is watering just talking about this.

I brought a box of doughnuts into my office for my co-workers yesterday morning, and the general consensus was that they were, in fact, amazeballs.  They were devoured.  And so I thought I’d pass along the good word.  I’ll risk having to stand in line for my doughnut if more people find out about this place, so that you and all your friends can also partake in this yummy experience.

Dough doesn’t have a website as far as I can see, so here are the deets:

  • 305 Franklin Avenue at Lafayette Avenue
  • Take the G to Classon Ave and walk 1 block east.
  • Hours seem to be from early AM (they were open before 8 AM yesterday) until about 5 PM
  • Flavors change with the season and the day, but their standards seem to stay the same (glazed, chocolate covered, hibiscus, lemon-poppy)
  • Cash only
  • Hunger required

Go in peace…to love and eat doughnuts.


Images:  (1) Yelp, all others Rebecca for Happy City Living

The Set-up

12 Jul

DISCLAIMER!:  This is a “progress” post.  It is not a “finished/pretty/look-at-me” post.  The dregs from the bottoms of my moving boxes are still lurking about in my apartment, without a home to be tucked away in, and there is no art on the walls yet.  Please use your rose colored glasses when you check out these pics.  Merci beaucoup.

The fact of the matter in all apartment living is that great furniture arrangement is both difficult and vital.  Correct placement of the larger items in your home helps to maximize whatever space you have (or at least it plays tricks on your eyes to make the space LOOK bigger).  However, city dwellers are always contending with structural obstacles.  You need to place your lamps near outlets so that you’re not living in a web of extension cords.  Your dresser can’t get up close enough the the corner of your bedroom because there’s a wall bump-out for plumbing or electrical.  The one wall that fits your couch also houses your air conditioner, causing that to be blocked.  The list of potential interior design issues is endless in apartment living.

I’d sort of figured that if I could arrange all of my large pieces in a studio apartment, then going back to a 1BR would be cake.  But by the time my sister came to visit last weekend, the schematics of my home still seemed “off”.  Granted, there were residual boxes sitting around and a giant bookcase lying face down on the middle of the living room floor (more on that later).

But my sister, Sar, is a gal of many talents, and having arranged her own small studio apartment in DC, she was able to lend a hand.  Plus, a fresh set of eyes on a conundrum never hurts.  After humming and hawing over my obnoxiously boxy overstuffed chair (it is ALWAYS the problem child in my collection of furniture), this is what we came up with for the living room:

For the kitchen, I just copied the set-up that the last folks had because it worked (the white bins are just hanging around because they don’t have a permanent, concealed spot yet):

The bathroom didn’t require any arranging, with the exception of towels and accessories:

The bedroom posed the largest problem.  Sar and I moved the furniture to seemingly every conceivable position.  The bedroom space is actually quite large, but I have an extra piece of furniture that I always love to incorporate into the set-up.  It’s an antique chaise from good old Aunt Betty, and it’s my most prized possession.  Unfortunately, a queen-size bed, a large dresser, AND a chaise lounge are a lot for any bedroom to hold.  So, each time I’d set things up in the bedroom last weekend, I’d sit there and think, “Now, THIS could work…oh shit, the chaise has to go somewhere.”  And then I’d be back at square one.  Agent Owens will laugh as he reads this because he despises the chaise and always tells me there’s no place for extraneous furniture in apartment living.  I always beg to differ.  Still, after a half-dozen failed arrangements, this is what I came up with:

I’m happy with everything the way it’s placed now, but there are no guarantees that I won’t look around one day and decide to shuffle everything.  I’m secretly hoping my designer friend and colleague, Joe, will come over one day and use his creative genius to tell me where everything SHOULD go.

So, there you have it.  The new digs.  As I mentioned and as you can see there are still piles of junk still lying around:  papers I still need to sort through, oddly shaped objects that I need to find a home for, art that’s waiting to go up on the walls.  One of these days when I look around and notice that everything is tidy and in its rightful place, I’ll post new shots.  Until then I’ll be on the phone fighting with the 163268995367834th  representative I’ve spoken to from Time Warner Cable, who’s surely still proving to be useless. Over a week without cable and internet, in the year 2011, just seems cruel. And ridiculous.

Anyone have any furniture arranging debacles of there own? Anyone see any obvious flaws in my set-up that I’ve missed?  Speak up and help a girl out!


Images:  All images Rebecca for Happy City Living


Oh, Mr. Wong

6 Jul

Mr. Wong did it again. He moved all of my worldly possessions (of which there are many) in the blink of an eye, driving away from the job as I stood in my doorway with my mouth open.

Yes, I filled this truck.

Let’s start from the beginning. The last time I moved (from Harlem to Battery Park City) I spent 3 weeks packing. I was so excited to be moving to downtown Manhattan that I started putting everything into boxes the moment my lease was signed. Unfortunately, this meant that I lived in chaos, without the day-to-day items I needed, for the better part of a month. Boo.

This time I decided I could surely get everything packed in a week. Afterall, I was moving out of a studio this time, and I’d downsized a bit. But then life got in the way and packing was put on the back burner. So in the end, I packed in only a few days. Thankfully, my friend Amber helped me out one night, and since she is a super-focused organization freak, shit got taken care of. The final odds and ends always end up piling up more than you expect them to, though, and the night before moving day I was up until 2:30 AM squirreling things away.

This is all of my stuff packed in boxes at the old apartment. Every square inch from the front of the pile to the windows, is full.

Vader and Johnny thought the pile of stuff was a jungle gym. Here Vader is, debating how to jump up to the tallest piece of bedframe board and balance himself there.

A few moments after I’d groggily gotten myself out of bed the next morning, I got a call from Mr. Wong. He had arrived at the entrance to my apartment complex, and the security guards wouldn’t let him in. Why? Because he was an hour and twenty minutes early.  The building won’t let trucks in before 9 AM, as I’d mentioned when I scheduled Mr. Wong for the earliest available moving slot.  But at 7:40, he was already duking it out with the guard in the booth.  I went downstairs to play peacekeeper and Mr. Wong reluctantly drove down the block to wait after being promised that he’d be the first one allowed in the complex at 9:00.

Once 9:00 finally arrived, the move-out went as smoothly as I thought it would.  In 52 minutes, Mr, Wong and his partner had moved everything out of the apartment and into the truck.  Mr. Wong moved everything from the apartment into the elevator, and his partner retrieved the elevator loads and moved them onto the truck.  The most mind boggling moment was when the partner guy picked up my couch and carried it to the truck, single-handedly.  WTF?!?!?!?!?!  If you google the phrase “brute strength”, I swear a photo of these two men will pop up.

I wrote down the address of the new apartment, and off we all drove to Brooklyn.  I thought that the stairs at my new place might throw my miracle movers for a loop.  My new apartment is one flight up, which means you can’t just load things into an elevator and roll them in the door.  But I was Wong  wrong.  Stairs are no obstacle.  The move-in was completed in a little over an hour.  Ridiculous.

Mr. Wong (in blue) and his partner, offloading the truck. One of the few times the two of them were in the same place at the same time.

These shelves are heavy. Most people would carry one shelf at a time up a flight of stairs. Mr. Wong carried FOUR.

Mr. Wong's partner has a stack of 4 full plastic tubs on a hand truck in this photo. He did not take them upstairs one at a time. He backed up the stairs, pulling the stack up one stair at a time. The strength required to do that is immeasureable.

Loading the goods into my new living room.

And so, by noon, I was on the road back to my old apartment to clean up, paint the walls back to white (the existing cream and tan walls were not acceptable; they had to be Arctic White), turn in the keys, and have my last round of Battery Park City halal from my cart guy.  With the help of my parents and Aunt Betty, it was all done by 4:30, and we headed back to Clinton Hill to unpack and grab some dinner.

Me, with all my belongings behind me.

My parents always insist that the first thing you have to do in a new apartment is set up the bed.  That way, when you run out of gas in the late evening, you can just go straight to sleep.  Smart?  Yes.  So, that’s what we did.

By the time my friend (and new neighbor), Biscut, came by for dinner (pizza from Not Ray’s – don’t even get me started on this pizza; I’ve eaten it 4 times in the last week), the bed was made, the kitchen and bathroom were unpacked, and half of my clothing pile was put away.  Boo-ya.

Lots of stuff strewn across the floor, but note the neatly tucked in bed. Ahh, comfort.

And then I crashed.  The sheer exhaustion from packing, moving, cleaning, painting, and unpacking knocked me out instantly.  I hate to go to sleep before the full un-pack is done, but I just couldn’t function any longer.  And so this post has to crash, too.  Yup, that’s all she wrote for one day….literally.  HA, I crack myself up!

Tune in over the next couple of days for furniture arrangements and more on Not Ray’s Pizza.  Oh yea, and you’ll probably get a rant about Time Warner somewhere along the line, too.  A week after moving in, I still have no cable or internet.  Not a good look.  So in order to blog tonight, I’m here at a random cutesy coffee house near my house with the rest of the neighborhood’s 20-something white girl population (maybe TWC f’d them over too?).  It’s a cute place with good food and outdoor space, and at the moment they’re trying to funk-i-fy it with some Fugees tunes.  White girls gotta have their jams.  Ah, gentrification, you bastard.

Told ya it was cute. The twinkle lights are out in a patio, in the back.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, you probs have internet and cable, so say “wut up” to reality TV for me.  Oh, how I miss you, HGTV and Bravo!


Plowing Through, Full Speed Ahead

6 Jul

Hello again! It feels like ages since I’ve posted…probably because it has been!

Real talk: it’s been a shitty past 2 weeks for this girl.  I’ve been dealt a bunch of major personal challenges all at once, and they have been TOUGH.  So, as any good drama queen knows, when the universe falls outta wack, the best option for dealing with everything is to curl up in the fetal position on your bed and cry it out with a glass of Pinot on your nightstand.  Check, check, and check!  Unfortunately, no pearls of blogging genius were spewing from my brain during this period, and who really wants to read whiney crap?  No one, that’s who.

This was from another rough week back in college, but the staples of the recovery process are the same: wine, a large pot of pasta, and some sappy girl tunes (note the "old fashioned" ipods).

I did break up the personal pity party, though, SOMEtimes over the past couple of weeks.  I went to work, I walked from my bedroom to my kitchen to retrieve cold pizza from the fridge, and one day I even shifted my sad sack body to the couch to watch Love Actually (cue more crying)…oh yea, and I moved.

That’s right.  I am officially a Clinton Hill resident.  Mr. Wong did his thing, and I’m in!  I never like to waste any time getting to the unpacking portion of moving, so that’s pretty much done, too.  And I’ve rearranged the furniture no fewer than 50 times, so the apartment is finally looking the way I’d hoped it would.

Exhausted from just completing the move, but happy because my friend Biscut now lives nearby! See those glasses of water? Yea, they were replaced with beers and gin & tonics about 10 seconds after this photo was taken.

Yup, I’m settled in, and I’m loving the extra space (when you’re used to a studio, a 1BR feels like a mansion).  And the kitty babies are doing a happy dance since they can now see exciting stuff from the windows, like birds in the backyard (I swear, to these cats, a bird flying by is like watching the Superbowl on a huge flatscreen).  They’re so distracted that they’ve even stopped waking me up at 5:30 AM!  So, I guess it’s actually me who should be doing the happy dance.

Any-who…details of the move and photos of the new place are forthcoming.  So, stay tuned.  It’s good to be back!  And in the spirit of happy stuff, leave a comment telling me what fun fun fun stuff you did for the 4th of July.  It’s a fave holiday in my parents’ house, so there are always major festivities and tons of beach-going.  This year was no exception.  What did you do?  Here’s hoping you’re sufficiently tanned.


Here’s The Situation

16 Jun

If you’re an out-of-towner, you probably think my recent posts about rental prices in New York are ludicrous.  You’re thinking, “No wonder this girl is in the process of moving!  No one in their right mind would pay so much money for a shoebox apartment!”  You’re right:  it is totally crazy-pants.  But for folks who are familiar with NYC apartment pricing, the prices I’ve mentioned are par for the course.  And it may seem odd that two gainfully employed adults (Agent Owens and me) can’t afford $1000/month, each, to continue living in an apartment they love (read all about why we’re moving here and our new Clinton Hill place here).   If you’ve been reading Happy City Living, you probably also know that in the past I paid $1300/month (by myself) to live in Sunset Park and $1600/month (by myself) to live in Harlem.  So, why did I recently put myself through all the agita of apartment hunting, over $1000/month each?

Well, for Agent Owens and me, our living situation recently took a pretty drastic turn.  Agent Owens got a great new job offer within his agency – YAY!  But it required working in Philadelphia for the next two years – BOO.  To be honest, though, we were both thrilled for him to get the job, and he loves Philadelphia almost as much as I love New York.  So, overall, it was a great turn of events.

Us, in front of Independence Hall. Taking photos outside of the building is as close to an historical experience as I need to have. History and me - not BFFs.

Although I’m crazy biased and in love with New York, I should be fair here and tell you there are some things to really love about Philadelphia.  First of all, it’s close to New York, haha!  Ok, but seriously.  It’s a clean, vibrant, walk-able city.  Plus, there’s a great path for biking and jogging along the Schuylkill River (try saying that name 3 times fast – or, even one time!), that leads to the Wissahickon Park (where do they GET these names?????).  For bike-a-holics like Agent Owens, this quick escape from the hustle-bustle of the city is an amazing amenity.  The city also has fun going-out spots, pretty neighborhoods with historic buildings, and all the conveniences of big city living.

And, most notably, the aptly named Philly Cheesesteaks the city has to offer are Out. Of. This. World.  I’d eaten some bullsh*t cheesesteaks here in NYC at some point, and as a result I thought I didn’t like cheesesteaks.  I’ve never been more wrong, and my growing waistline (acquired since our Philly stint) is proof of that.  If you can’t get to Philly, try Carl’s Steaks in NYC.  They’re pretty amazeballs, and they’re the best you’ll find in New York.  But if you reeeeeally want the best of the best, hit up Jim’s Steaks in Illy.  Yes, I said Illy.  I’m a half-resident of that town now, and I’m allowed to use that name because that’s what the cool kids say. I think.  Anyway, Jim’s is on South Street at the corner of 4th Street.  Every Philly-goer has their fave cheesesteak spot – you might have heard of the more famous Pat’s   and Geno’s – and Jim’s is our go-to.  The line wrapping around the corner of the building at busy times is proof that we’re right.

It's hoppin' at Jim's! See the mob by the front door? That's the line.

But wait…apartments…how did I get so far off on a tangent?  Food always seems to do that to me!  Well, as I was saying, Agent Owens now spends a good chunk of time in Philly each week for work, necessitating a second apartment.  The need for that second home (which comes with an oh-so-fun second monthly rent payment), combined with The Gate’s recent rent hike, was just too much for our poor wallets.  So, we had to make a move, and in a short two weeks I’ll be off to the suburbs tree-lined streets of Brooklyn.

As I get closer to moving into the new digs, I’m actually getting more and more excited. The thought of more space, a roof deck, and a fairly new building makes me a little giddy.  Although, I haven’t been giddy enough to start packing yet. Hmmm, maybe I should get on that.

So, the happy city couple is now straddling two cities. Is it a little bit annoying to have to ever step foot into another city that ISN’T New York? Yes. But, truthfully, Agent Owens carries the brunt of the travel burden. So, I should stop being whiny.

Plus, I always remind myself that when I’m in Philly I’m right around the corner from MODG’s house. Oh you don’t know MODG? She’s the hilarious Philadelphia-area blogger behind Martinis Or Diaper Genies, who weighs the pros and cons of her former responsibility-free lifestyle and her current life as a new parent.  You should check her out right here. Hers was the first blog I ever became addicted to, and you’ll become obsessed, too (mostly if you’re a 20/30-something female). I try to relay the hilarity of this blog to Agent Owens, but he’s firmly on the “Martinis” side of the MODG debate, and he gets a glazed-over, comatose look on his face when I mention the words “baby,” “child,” or “kid.” Plus, he doesn’t care about high heels or Suri Cruise, which are two other hot topics over in MODG-land. But 1 zillion fanatical readers (and me) can’t be wrong.  I love MODG, and I tell myself that if I hang out in Philly long enough I’ll totally run into her and we’ll become BFFs on the spot. It’ll be fate. Fo shizz.

MODG: Ninja? Mom? Shoe-a-holic? All of the above.

So, tell me.  Anyone else juggling two apartments? Or two cities for that matter? Anyone think Agent Owens and I are nuts for renting two apartments in two of the most expensive cities in the country? Heck, I think we’re nutty half the time!  If you can offer up a cool new Philly activity or place of interest you’ll totally get bonus points…in the game of good karma and life in general. Deal? K.

Happy Double-City Rebecca


Images:  (1) Rebecca for Happy City Living, (2) Jim’s Steaks, (3) Martinis or Diaper Genies