Married in Manhattan…on a Budget

After being together for thirteen years, my then boyfriend (now husband) proposed to me. As he nervously put the ring on my finger my first words to him, after saying yes, were, "Wait, does this mean I have to plan a wedding?"

Married in Manhattan
My Husband and I on our wedding day at Washington Square Park

At that point in time, the majority of our coupled friends had already gotten married. I happened to be in a couple of weddings so had seen firsthand what I did and did not want in my own nuptials. However, even with that knowledge, planning a wedding was not easy.

The additional challenge for us was that our families were unable to financially support us so the burden of paying for the wedding fell squarely on our shoulders. That said, this is not necessarily a bad thing! Saving for a major expenditure, together, is actually good practice for saving for other things like a house, college fund or a nice vacation.

When the dust settled, we were able to get married in Manhattan for just under $15K which is well under the national average for weddings in this country. This is also WAY under the average for Manhattan which is currently at a ridiculous $88,176.

Additionally, I should note that this amount is inclusive of our honeymoon flight and lodging which ended up being a wonderful reward for all our saving and planning. Some folks suggested maybe we should wait until later and have a longer honeymoon but it was actually really nice to get away on an adventure that included our passports, however modest.

So, without further ado, now that it's been a full year since the wedding and I've had a chance to reflect on that day—and all the planning that led up to it—here are some tips and tricks on how we did it: Continue reading "Married in Manhattan…on a Budget"

The Real Issue with Hillary's Email

I don't usually write about politics but The Washington Post recently published an article about how Hillary Clinton reached out to Colin Powell to understand what he did to have access to email remotely. There's a scanned print-out of exactly what they discussed over email which I found fascinating!

When I read the exchange between Powell and Clinton, I could instantly relate. It seems that working at the State Department is a lot like working in financial services. And, quite honestly, it wasn't until I worked at a bank that I realized just how oppressive IT policy could be. Email on your personal phone is a relatively new concept at my current employer in the financial industry and even then, it is significantly locked down via a special app that doesn't let you navigate to links or download files to your phone.

In my opinion, the real root of the problem here is the risk-averse IT policies in place that often impede folks from getting shit done. Continue reading "The Real Issue with Hillary's Email"

642 Things to Write About

If you hang out on this blog long enough, you'll see that I write about a bunch of different topics.

I really enjoy writing about technology from a woman's perspective as so much of technology coverage doesn't really speak to how products are (or in some cases are not!) designed with women in mind. To this end, I also enjoy writing about customer experiences in general. For me, user experiences are all around us waiting to be examined (i.e. functional design).

However, I've also enjoyed writing creatively. I say this in the past tense because it's been a while since I've finished writing something creative. And, while I enjoy writing about the real world and what's going on in it, I'd love to get back to creative writing.

And… I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

For my birthday, I received a book called "642 Things to Write About." It wasn't something I'd heard about and it wasn't like I had this in my Amazon wish list. But it came at just the right time. That's what I mean by "the universe" — this book came to me by no action of my own exactly when it should.

So, I'll be taking on the 642 writing prompts in the book, one blog post at a time. I'll still blog about the stuff I always do, but the creative writing will take precedence here. I'll tag each post as "642 things" and "creative writing" so you can find them by tag if you are so inclined.

Hope you enjoy!

My Summer Fling

This summer I decided to have a fling — with long fingernails. It all started innocently enough, but I'll take it from the top.

My nails were so hot (pun intended).
My nails were so hot (pun intended).

Earlier this year, my nails were particularly brittle and I personally was feeling a bit run down. A couple of health professionals I saw recommended taking vitamins, which I started doing (of course, only the gummy kind would suffice). Being that I am interested in becoming pregnant in the next 5 years, they said it would be good to get into the habit of taking them.

Many women who take vitamins regularly report shiny hair and strong nails. I didn't have either. After chopping off my hair (I was due but my hair stylist decided to take off a little bit more than normal!), I did some research about my nails and came across a woman who recommended jojoba oil but overall proposed the point that the true foe to happy, healthy nails is water. Purportedly, the jojoba oil penetrates the nail and keeps the water out. She also recommended putting base coat on the underside of the nail to protect against water in day to day life. Continue reading "My Summer Fling"

Whatever happened to digital photo albums?

Anthony and I were in Montreal over the weekend. We had a blast and, unsurprisingly, spent a lot of time eating. During one of those moments, we happened to be in the Old Montreal area at a restaurant called Le Robin Square enjoying a leisurely lunch. We had VERY leisurely lunches. While the service at all the restaurants we visited was great, we noticed there's a bit of a slower pace of life in Montreal — especially when it comes to dining — that is pretty much unheard of in New York. Not a bad thing but just different!

This poutine did not stand a chance!
This poutine did not stand a chance!

While we were there for lunch, we happened to notice the restaurant had a TV screen with some digital ambiance playing on it. This consisted of a stock video of a vineyard and you could see the leaves gently swaying in the wind. This got me thinking about the idea of the "digital picture frame."

Remember when that was a thing? Continue reading "Whatever happened to digital photo albums?"

Luxury User Experiences: Chanel

If you know me, you know that I'm mildly obsessed with nail polish. I have a large box in my dresser containing various colors and styles – as well as nail art tools. Selecting a polish to wear can sometimes be really difficult (seriously, it's like choosing among children!) so I'll ask my dear husband to weigh in. Most recently, he selected one of my all-time favorite polishes, Essie's Chinchilly.

Chances are you are not like me and know the names of all your favorite nail polishes. However, Chinchilly is a legend so you've probably seen it without knowing you were looking for it. I've had women in the elevator stop me and ask me if the color they are admiring on my fingers is Chinchilly. It's a seriously "greige" color; a bit of neutral and grey and even lavender depending on the light.

Essie Chinchilly on a chilly day
Essie Chinchilly on a chilly day

When I decided to begin painting my nails with my bottle of Chinchilly, I discovered a dire situation — the bottle was past its prime and beyond repair. I have some nail polishes that get a bit gloopy (really thick and barely manageable because they are probably actually expired…) but they are still somewhat useable so I keep them around. But this time, most of the bottle had been used and what was left over was the nail polish equivalent of backwash.

I considered instantly re-buying it on Amazon but I held off because I thought that might be a bit excessive (and dear husband would've surely made fun of me!). Instead I bought a new bottle later at Rite-Aid. But that's not the point. The point is I thought about the experience of re-buying something that you absolutely love. Continue reading "Luxury User Experiences: Chanel"

A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers

The other day, my husband decided to share a trailer for the latest Gran Turismo game that was unveiled for the Playstation console at the latest E3 events. I remember playing Gran Turismo games with my little brother way back when on the original first Playstation! I also really enjoy, now as an adult with a driver's license, having the opportunity to drive high performance cars from time to time; though, most of the time, I'm rolling around in a compact car with good fuel economy thanks to Zipcar. All that said, we watched the trailer together and were in awe of the beautiful graphics that made sleek sports cars look even sleeker.

However, while the game graphics look fantastic, I noticed a small omission in the trailer I watched. Let me explain.

At about 45 seconds into the video, multiple world flags appear circling the globe with some text overlayed that says "Driving is for Everyone." I thought that was cute and chuckled softly to myself. Yes, driving should be for everyone because, personally, I find it fun and convenient for getting across this giant country we live in.

By about 2 and a half minutes in, they start presenting images about live tournaments they'll be running regularly. I think to myself, "How the hell are they going to manage that?" but I'm sure they've figured out some way to automate it so that people can play in these tournaments online and it works fairly seamlessly.

At 3 minutes in, the screen now reads "Open to all ages, anyone can enjoy" but all the faces I see feverishly playing the new game are men. Eight seconds later and I think I've spotted ONE woman deep in the background at this tournament event they are showing footage from. Another six seconds go by and I see a crowd of people clapping for the game, not sure if they are fans or journalists but it is fairly clear that they are also ALL men. By 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the video, it is still a sausage fest with a group of male victors celebrating.

By 3 minutes and 50 seconds, I finally see a woman in the foreground and she is congratulating a winner, who is of course male. Continue reading "A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers"

Candidates for a Work Appropriate Laptop bag

I work at a company that loves email. You might work at one, too! I spend a good part of my work day simply triaging and responding to email. And, because the little red circles next to applications on my iPhone keep me up at night, I cannot stand for an Inbox that has double or triple-digit unread messages.

On a particularly tough work day, I discovered a really cool thing that Outlook does. When I receive messages, even if I haven't read them, everything about that message has been downloaded (included attachments). For NYC area commuters with limited wifi access, this means you can spend your commuting time managing your inbox (provided you get a seat). I turned a colleague onto this who commutes via MetroNorth (the above ground railroad that leads to points north of the city) and she proclaimed it a godsend. Hooray for productivity!

Of course, after I discovered this, I started toting my laptop home with me more often. On the ride to work, I could clean up whatever was in my inbox that I didn't get to the previous day and start my day fresh! Or maybe I could work on a document during that time. Either way, stealing moments to catch up on work during particularly busy stretches helped immensely.

However, what didn't help was the fact that my laptop got a little hefty after a while with all its accessories. I decided to stop bringing the charger home which definitely helps lessen the load (I keep one charger at the office, and another at home). That said, I discovered a good bag to tote it home in would be necessary. Right now, I have a leather bag designed for 15 inch laptops which is far too big; especially on the subway where I feel like a bull in a china cabinet. And I tried to search for this type of information (i.e. "best laptop bags") but the ideas that turn up are usually centered on men's bags or bags that can exclusively hold a laptop, but not much else.

My ideal bag doesn't look like it has a laptop in it. Perhaps that's the New Yorker in me but I would like to walk down the street and not feel like someone might target me because of what they know exists in my bag. Also, my ideal bag consolidates a lot of different bags. On many days, I carry a gym bag so I'd like to avoid having 2 additional bags (purse + laptop bag) on top of that.

I did a lot of soul searching and I'm mostly decided but here are some of the bags I'm looking at. Consider this a highly curated list of the "best work appropriate bags for ladies who like large (and organized) laptop bags that look as good as they function." That's not a mouthful! Continue reading "Candidates for a Work Appropriate Laptop bag"