OMFG I Love This Stuff

06.17.14

I’m not a review blogger and I don’t want to become one. I do, however, love to try new things and I love driving new cars. The cars will stay here, on the blog. But I’ve been meaning to tell y’all about my treadmill desk for ages and I can’t bring myself to write a blog post about how my treadmill desk changed my life (and it did). I have a dilemma. I find great things (most of them under $20) and I’m a sharer, an oversharer but a blog full of the crap I buy would be somewhere between boring and annoying.

So I’ve made a decision. I will send out a weekly(ish) newsletter about the things I love and that you might love too. Don’t worry it’ll be short. A few things, maybe even just one, with a picture and a sentence or two but not much more than that. It will also be things that I bought or coveted and you won’t find any product placement or PR pitches in it. It’s just me, doing my thing. Like we used to before blogging became a business and businesses became content creators for bloggers.

If I were sending an email about my treadmill desk it would read like this:

Last August I bought myself a treadmill desk & it changed my life. I now work more efficiently, my back is never stiff and I seldom daydream. You won’t lose weight on a treadmill desk if you’re writing because you’re not so much walking as you are shifting your weight. I suppose if you used to to watch TV and whatnot you’d move quite a bit more and possibly burn some real calories but I don’t have any experience with that. The desk is large and it’s ugly and it’s a lot more plastic than I enjoy having around but the benefit of not sitting for hours a day is monumental. I spent about $1800 and that included delivery and installation from Busy Body.

I have a TR1200 and I see it’s now listed at $999. There are newer models but I feel no need to upgrade.

treamill desk

If you think you’d like an email like this one once a week or so please sign up for it here. This way I can keep the blog focused on important things like one eyed dogs, teenage kids, travel, cars and navel gazing.

The Help, My Help

08.13.11

I know that I purchased The Help on January 7, 2010 because my Amazon account told me so. It was a good book. It wasn’t great. It started beautifully and everyone loves a good Southern Novel. There’s richness in the characters of south that we all love.

I wanted to love the book. I devoured the first two thirds of the book but then I was disappointed as the author dragged the ending out and had a need to package it up tidily. I saw the movie and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a movie and thought, “that was better than the book.”

I know some people find the movie offensive. I guess I can see that. Historically it’s probably at least partly accurate but I sat alone in the movie theater wondering what I would do if one of my past housekeepers walked in. Would I sit with her? Would I know her children’s names?

We had help. Barbara came three times a week to our house after school and her daughter Debbie babysat us every morning before school. Debbie only missed one day of work. It was to go to the radio station and see Peter Frampton on his birthday. When I was six Debbie was a few minutes late to watch us, she was crying. Her father had just died.

I loved going to Barbara’s house. She would make us Jello recipes like the ones Bill Cosby showed on commercials. She used Cool Whip and she even had white bread. She said fuck and shit a lot. She’d taught herself English and apparently had started with the cussing. I loved Barbara and I’d like to believe that Barbara loved me back. We celebrated many Mother’s Days with Barbara and my mom. They were the women who shaped us.

When I was pregnant Barbara helped me get my house in order. Shortly after Jane was born Barbara died and I unimaginably raised a child that she never really knew.

In my teenage years there were Nellies, and Marthas, there were Letties and Mayras, but in my heart there was only Barbara. I’m not sure that The Help isn’t a movie that couldn’t be filmed today. I look at the Dream Act and those who would like to kill it, and I wonder if they were ever rocked by a Central or South American Nanny who sang them songs, and with a slip of the tongue called them by the wrong name, her own child’s name.

I don’t think The Help is our past. For a completely different (and probably better written) perspective read this. Now.

Old Publicist… Meet New Media

08.1.11

I used to spend a good bit of time poking at publicists who didn’t understand bloggers. To be perfectly candid I didn’t understand publicists, and to a large degree I still don’t. I also don’t understand brain surgery, but like bad PR I can recognize malpractice when I see it.

I want y’all to take a moment and read the email exchange between a blogger with a massive audience and publicist steeped in tradition. I know what I think, what do you think?

This is the unsolicited introductory email. 

Hi [blogger],

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to pass along information about our new client [redacted] along with a look book and information about their Fall 2011 collection.

[Redacted], known for their collection of [redacted], began their business by creating accessories for today’s sophisticated and chic parents. With this notion, [redacted] differentiated themselves from the other purely iconic [redacted] brands, transforming their company into a lifestyle collection with an ability to provide something for everyone.

Expanding their product offering this fall, [redacted] is introducing a collection, including messenger bags, handbags, and a variety of totes, in addition to their diaper and baby bags. The collection will fit the many needs of all parents, male or female.

Compared to their competitors [redacted] has always offered a more approachable price point featuring vibrant prints [redacted], endless versatility with reversible options, smart straps with memory foam, custom hardware, and a protective lining with a natural anti-microbial treatment.

One of the newest additions for Fall is [redacted], [redacted] selection of earth conscious[redacted]. With innovative engineering and extensive research, Earth Leather is completely animal-free, machine washable, and friendly to the environment without sacrificing style. This collection includes[redacted]’s most popular styles with their classic approach to wearability, extending to accessories such as a variety of wallets.

[redacted]’s growth can even be seen by the attention they have gotten through the media as [redacted] can be seen toting around a [redacted].

If there are any styles from the look book that are a fit for any stories that you are working on, please let me know! Happy to send them to you! I will follow up with a phone call tomorrow morning.

Best,

[Publicist]

Product Marketing and Placement, Television and Film

 

And the response: 

  [Publicist], I would be happy to share some of the current styles and links to [redacted] in exchange for a [redacted].

Sincerely,
[Blogger]

Which to me seems like a great response, right, the publicist had written, “If there are any styles from the look book that are a fit for any stories that you are working on, please let me know! Happy to send them to you!” Remember this is to a blogger not Elle Magazine.

The publicist follows up with:

     Hi [blogger],

Please send me a media kit.

Best,

[publicist]

Hmmmm????

[Publicist], I dont keep a media kit becuase, as you know, blogs change on a dime.

Currently I have a PR5, last month I received over 179K uniques, my forum houses 400+ active social media bloggers and does approx 400K page views a month. [Site name] has been seen in over 24 major magazines and newspapers, this month listed in a [redacted] story and am in the July issue of [redacted] magazine as a [redacted].

I am happy to provide screen shots of stats.

[Blogger]

The next email seems like things are smoothed over

 Hi [Blogger],

We would love for you to review one of our [redacted] on your site. Please send me your mailing address.

Best,

[Publicist]

And this is also benign. 

         [Publicist]

Its
[Blogger, address, city, state, zip]

However I dont want a mystery [redacted]. I would need to approve the pattern/style before its sent.

thankyou!

[Blogger]

And then the email is forwarded to someone senior. The senior publicist replies to all with: 

 Hello [Blogger],

We would be happy to send you a [redacted] to review for your site. We are happy to send you the style [redacted] you are interested in reviewing- pattern and print seemingly would be inconsequential given you are testing the [redacted] and its features.

Please do let me know which style you prefer and we would be more than happy to send it to you to review for your site.

All my best

[Redacted]
Senior VP Public Relations
Fashion Beauty Lifestyle

I’m going to chime in here with the fact that with anything lifestyle the print and color matter. Especially if you’re looking for web shoppers. Just my two cents.

The blogger kindly follow up with this (yes, I clearly have a bias):

  [Senior VP],

Since you most want to advertise the [redacted], lets go w/ the [redacted].

You can ship to
[shipping information]

The sooner the better since the [event is] in 2.5 weeks and I want to get your review up before then! OTherwise [sic] its gonna be a few weeks [sic] before I get back to my normal online posting schedule.

sincerely,
[Blogger]

And then the hammer comes down: 

 

  Hello [Blogger],

I am confused, are you looking for a [redacted] for yourself? Unfortunately we are not able to fill personal requests.

All my best,
[SVP}

[Redacted]
Senior Director of Public Relations

She replies

 [SVP], see our email trail…I thought you offered a review for the site? I dont send reviews back. You said to pick the pattern and colors? I would run the review article?

Now you have me confused.

[Blogger]

And then….

 [Blogger],

I said we do not send specific patterns and or colors.

With sites that have fewer than 50,000 uniques and or monthly viewers we only send images, and do not fill specific product requests. I have reviewed your site in depth and have to take a pass on your request. I see that you were previously in PR and I am sure you understand my position.

Apologies all around for the confusion below.
All my best,
[SVP]

And then the blogger replies with a list of her accolades, press, 200k+ traffic for the past year, national campaigns and more. She asked the SVP to review the email thread and mentions that she runs a prominent group forum. The SVP then sends this. 

[Blogger],

There is no need for threats.

Having been in this business for 21 years and running my own PR firm for 10 currently the senior director at [redacted] I am very well versed at process and procedure. Often times we need to make a judgment call. We received hundreds of requests for [redacted] product from the look book mail out. I then look at each request- check their alexa and compete ranking and decide if we can fill the request. I assume you are the same [Blogger] that is wearing a micro mini skirt in the photoon page one of your site? Or I am mistaken?

I want to be sure your site is [redacted]- correct?

[Redacted]
Senior Director of Public Relations

 

Unlike 21 years ago when the SVP was starting out carving her press releases into stone tablets, this email exchange has been shared with a community of bloggers who cumulatively have more than 10 million impressions a month. Why would they offer an item and then become so difficult? It wasn’t like the blogger emailed them asking for a product.

 

Northern Italian Food in the Southern Tip of Manhattan

04.29.11

Mr G and I had a fabulous day in Manhattan. We started our morning with a much needed trip to Bloomingdales (shut up I have my own definitions of need). We found him a beautiful pair of shoes, that I worry may end up never being worn again, but they delight me in that they are neither black nor brown and they are not loafers. We also replaced the Hugo Boss slim fit shirt that the dry cleaner lost. It’s an impossible shirt to find, and it’s the loveliest crisp white shirt to wear with jeans.

From Bloomies we went to meet friends for lunch, and from lunch we went to the Highline. Two worldly friends who told me that the Highline Park is one of the most beautiful places they’ve been. Mr G and I made our way downtown and climbed the stairs to an immature garden on an abandoned railway platform. We entered the Highline near 20th Street, which is clearly the newest part of the project, as we walked downtown the plants and trees grew lusher and more mature. It appears that the project began at the southernmost point and procceded north. The progression is spectacular and I love that the the tiniest saplings are at one end while only slightly larger ones are a few blocks away. New sections appear to be opening sometime soon.

The Highline is simply awe inspiring in that it offers spectacular city and river views, it’s the poster child for urban reuse, and the sounds. Do not miss the sounds. There are bells in the 14th street passage that will make you believe in the goodness of man. Stephen Vitiello traveled all over the city and recorded the sounds of bells ringing. Bells from the Stock Exchange, bells from bicycles, bells from Buddhist temples, and on the top of every hour there are 59 bells ringing together. You can sit in front of a list of the bells, and every minute another bell rings, it’s another tone, and another part of the city. The sound resonates and just as it disappears another bell chimes. The sounds are so crisp, so pure, and so fleeting that I could easily have sat for an hour.

After the Highline Mr G had some work to do so we separated and he headed back to midtown. I tromped around the meat packing district and then decided to listen to some friends and check out Century 21. I went down into the subway and didn’t exactly pay attention to where I was headed, when I came back above ground I was stunned to be standing at the World Trade Center.

I’ve been to New York a dozen times since the towers were bombed, but I’ve never made the pilgrimage to the WTC. It never pulled at me or my husband, and we didn’t feel like bringing our children there. I stood on Broadway slack jawed while staring at an enormous hole in the ground. There are mural sized advertisements everywhere showing a generic woman enjoying the view of a planned memorial. This was my first glance and as much as I’ve missed seeing the towers guiding me into the city, and as much as I thought I was prepared, I was utterly stunned by the size of the destruction.

I hated Century 21 because it made me go to the World Trade Center, and I hate that sort of shopping, but I managed to find a few things anyhow.

I went back to the hotel, dropped off my haul and freshened up. We had drinks with friends and then headed to the southernmost part of the city for the best meal I’ve had in many years.

If you are thinking of opening a restaurant go to Scalini Fedeli and watch them. Making a reservation was a pleasant event. I do not know of any other restaurant where the simple act of calling for a reservation is a warm and welcoming experience. The service is impeccable and the food was magnificent.

If you’ve ever tried making focaccia you know that there’s  magic in the onions. It’s easy to char the onions and difficult, but just as devastating, to undercook them. The olive oil and salt can make or break the bread. The focaccia at Scalini Fedeli was perfection and a sign of things to come.

Before appetizers we all had a single mushroom and black truffle ravioli in a light cream sauce. It was both hearty and light. Next was seared foie gras and roasted apples over braised spinach and toasted hazelnuts drizzled with port wine if I could eat this every day for the rest of my life I think I would. The main course was a light fish plate, that had crabmeat which was cooked to perfection. I seldom order crab or lobster outside of New England because it’s so often overcooked, but this was beyond amazing.

Dessert was a napoleon for me, and a souffle for him. I love that you don’t have to preorder a souffle here. Before dessert arrived we were each presented a small taste of sorbet, pineapple for me and cheesecake for him.

Again, I must reiterate, the service was best I’ve seen in at least a dozen years with every plate prepared to perfection, and just the right amount of attention from every member of the wait staff.

Sidenote: Mr G didn’t like it. Too snooty. Oy.

 

Water for Elephants is Such a Good Movie that Robert Pattinson Can’t Ruin it

04.22.11

I took two twelve year old girls to see Water for Elephants. They say it’s the best movie they’ve ever seen. To be fair they haven’t seen many movies and they thought Eclipse was a good movie, they are not to be trusted.

I read Water for Elephants and like most bibliophiles I seldom enjoy seeing a movie after having read the book. I wanted to see this because I knew that the backdrop of a prohibition era circus was bound to be visually arresting.

The movie did not fail in being a delight to the senses. The costumes, the makeup, the music and the sets were flawless. I felt like I’d been transported to another era. While many movies have arbitrary soundtracks, Water for Elephants had music that became a character.

Reese Witherspoon was Marlena. There isn’t much more to say about her role. There was never a moment where I watched her and thought she was an actor. She was completely believeable in her relationships with both Jacob Jankowski (Robert Pattinson) and with August (Cristoph Waltz ).

Cristoph Waltz plays August the circus owner with a borderline personality. His performance took my breath away. Waltz goes from love to confusion to fury and takes you on a fearful journey. At moments I felt compassion for him, but always he was the enemy of all things good.

Robert Pattinson was okay and mercifully didn’t speak too much. He’s very nice to look at and when he was interacting with the animals he was wonderful. Sadly when he interacted with Reese it felt a little like a high school play where the sweaty palmed sophomore is playing opposite the talented and beautiful senior. I felt badly for him, he was cast with the best of the best and there was no way he was going to end up looking good.

The good news is that the story is such an engaging one, the plot and the music, the scenery and the animals are so all encompassing that you don’t notice the flaws in the performances.

Practical tips.

I took two 12 year old girls to see it. I asked them if they could have enjoyed it a year ago and they had to think hard about it. These are media savvy 12 year olds too. They’ve been on dozens of TV and movie sets so they understand the pretend part of it better than most. They agree that it’s absolutely not for a 9 or 10 year old, but they can’t agree on if 11,12 and 13 are all ready for it.

Animals and people are abused and murdered, but the animal scenes are more disturbing.

None of the violence is gratuitous and the message is positive at the end of the movie.

There are sexy moments but there’s no sex. That Resse Witherspoon is pretty awesome.

Say what you will about Pattinson’s OhShitICan’tAct performance, but after a fight scene a fully packed theater of jaded moviegoers gave the show a round of applause, and then they hushed themself for a kissing scene that was acted so sweetly that everyone was afraid to breathe.

If the measure of a good movie is audience behaviour then Water for Elephants gets an A+. I cried when they asked me to, I cheered when it was planned, I felt tremendous anxiety when they took me on that road, and finally I felt duty bound to the old man who wanted to return to the circus.

There was an experience the writers wanted us to feel, and we felt it all, we felt it as a group, and we celebrated the triumph of Water for Elephants even though the movie never really addressed the fact that no one gets the water for elephants. You bring the elephants to the water, but only carnies and folks who’d read the book would know that.