31 08 2010

ah yes, another fuzzy and only marginally flattering “iphone in the bathroom mirror” photograph! (we haven’t seen one of these since bingo night). anyway, ignore my “serious photo face” and turn your gaze downward (not that far down perv) to my amazing necklace. now please keep in mind that i am absolutely not the beaded jewelry type. i don’t know if it’s the configuration of my face (so pointy!), or something coded deep down in my DNA, but there are 2 looks that i can absolutely not pull off:

1. sporty. put me in a pair of wind pants and a fleece vest, and i automatically look like i’m wearing a bad sporty spice halloween costume.  it’s tragic. even when i’m actually being sporty, i still look ridiculous.

2. hippie/boho. again, maybe it’s my angular architecture, or something in the snark center of my brain that physically rejects the earnest peace and love vibe of peasant skirts and flat sandals, but whatever it is, it DOES NOT WORK. patchwork, corduroy, fringe, earth tones, and especially beads. all a big NO GO.

so you can imagine my confusion when i wandered into toko indo on exchange st. in the old port, and instantly wanted to buy everything in sight. you wouldn’t think that a store where 90% of the merchandise is hand beaded in bali would appeal to me on any level, but i got dragged in by a friend on a lunchtime shopping binge, and i was shocked at how MODERN everything was. it was like a candy store of 1960s refrigerator colors… avocado green, robins egg blue, tomato red… all monochromatic, with the focus on the architecture of piece itself. no rhinestones, no jangles, nothing extra- just perfectly edited shapes from the simple to the more baroque. along with the necklace that i ultimately bought (and visited it on at least 3 separate occasions before i finally took the plunge), i am also particularly enamored with their beaded stretch belts with wooden closures, multi-strand cuff bracelets, and a bunch of other stuff like wooden rings and beaded bubble necklaces that are frustratingly not pictured on their website!

however, there are many many stores where i want things (and without them i wouldn’t BE broke207), but not too many of them are well priced enough to be featured on broke207.  now, toko indo isn’t garage sale cheap, or marden’s cheap, but for an exchange street store full of beautiful stuff, it’s exceptionally reasonable. most of the necklaces are under $20, with rings and bracelets going for around $5-10. my necklace was priced at $22 (which seems like a steal to me for something handmade from glass beads), but the cashier accidentally only charged me $15. i pointed this out, and she let me have the lower price for being honest. SCORE! also, she was super nice and let me take a ton of pictures- no questions asked.

so if you don’t have a ton of cash, and you need to buy somebody a really nice gift, or you just want something inexpensive to help put your outfit on the zazz train to zazzville, wander down to the old port and hit the toko indo. even if you’re not the batik prints and questionable showering habits type (who needs to bathe when you can just throw some patchouli on there!), i think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

holy shit it’s father’s day.

16 06 2010

i’m really good at remembering things. childhood phone number? check. all US presidents in order in under 30 seconds (thanks mr. hickey!)? check. philip j. fry’s secret pin number (1077)? double check. although there do appear to be couple of serious leaks in my otherwise structurally sound memory including and especially: things i learned in high school history class (war of 18what?), where i put my keys, and holidays/special occasions. if you’re lucky i’ll probably remember christmas, but if you’re that guy that gets angry when people don’t celebrate you on your “special day”, maybe it’s time for us to reevaluate our friendship. birthdays are a blur, anniversaries are imaginary, and if you think i’m going to remember your kid’s 8th grad graduation… you’re fucking delusional. a few years ago, my mom called me up in early may and sweetly asked “honey, are you mad at me?”. apparently, i had zoomed past mother’s day without stopping to take a breath. i’m so sorry mom! i’m a terrible daughter!

i did manage to remember mother’s day this year (and am definitely making some headway with the addition of an iphone calendar into my life), but imagine my surprise when somebody told me that father’s day is sunday. THIS SUNDAY. um, i thought that shit was in august? in hopes that i might find some solidarity out there, i’ve decided to assume that at least all you still have yet to pick out the perfect father’s day gift (that is, if you’re a father’s day celebrator).  so without any further screwing around, i present to you: top 5 cheap & easy father’s day gifts that don’t look like you picked it up at the gas station on your way over.

1.  a project. booze is a father’s day staple for many (and frankly how many survive family holidays in the first place),  and it’s hard to go wrong with a bottle of great scotch or a case of a really good local microwbrew (this guy can make you a recommendation if you’re lost on the beer front).  but what about soliciting your dad for help in brewing your own hooch? the combination of bonding & booze is irresistible to many men, but if you choose to go the non-alcoholic route, it could be a beat up moped your found on craigslist, or a pasta maker,  or a build your own gazebo kit. it could be anything. the point is that for father’s day, you’re telling your dad that you want to spend time with him doing something awesome.

2. something from your childhood. don’t be fooled. men can be just as sentimental as the ladies, just in different ways. get a guy talking about his kids or his best friend, or the minute he fell in love with his wife… he’ll mist up mistier than misty dawn singing misty on the maid of the mist while playing myst and drinking a mr. misty from dairy queen. if you want to give your dad the gift of a hallmark moment this father’s day, consider giving him a sweet reminder of something wonderful you remember from your childhood along with a little note about how he was a really good dad. it could be a copy of the first movie he ever took you to, a book he used to read you at bedtime, or a framed photo of the best camping trip ever (*regift opportunity– repurpose a photo frame that contains a picture of an evil ex, and insert a really nice print of you & your dad on archival paper. i promise that dad doesn’t give a shit where you got the fame, plus you can release some of the bad breakup mojo still circulating in your life.)

3. something from his childhood. every child has their white whale- the toy that got away. the thing they wanted to for every birthday, christmas, bar mitzvah and never got. or maybe they got it- and tragically lost it through and unfortunate rough housing or little brother related accident. whatever the case, chances are your dad has been talking about it since 1956. use the power of ebay or local flea markets to try and track one down. ok, this one is a little short notice for sunday… but if you can harness your chi or whatever and make it happen, the payoff will be huge. dad will well up like a little girl, and you’ll be the hero that wiped out every failed holiday since 1956. (*bargain basement version– if you can’t find it or can’t afford it, find a picture of it and make your dad a card telling him how hard you tried to get it for him and that he’ll just have to accept your undying love instead. he’ll be so touched that you even considered getting it for him, he’ll probably slip your broke ass a $20 on the way out).

4. an event. i’m particularly partial to stubhub, but you can also score last minute/sold out event tickets on ebay and craigslist. the best part is that you don’t even have to have the tickets by father’s day, they just have to be “in the mail”. at this very moment, you can get tix to take your daddy-o to see some hardcore UFC action, or maybe some dirty dirty  chelsea handler stand up, or even to shake it with justin bieber. wait. strike that last part. as we get older and start our own families, one on one time with our parents starts to get scarce. it’s time to leave the kids, spouse, girlfriend, dog at home for the night and take your dad out on the date of a lifetime (*broke alert– no cash? try to score some free/cheap tix to a local sports or music event and cap it off with some late night pizza at otto).

5. an education. the boyfriend recently took his dad to a motorcycle permit class, and now they have matching bikes and have been terrorizing the suburbs on the weekends. cooking class, welding course, japanese lessons (*cheapster tip– buy him a how-to book, and try to learn something new together)… whatever you’re learning about, dad is going to be psyched to do it with you.

as i sad before, father’s day isn’t about stuffing your pop’s life with pointless gadgets from brookstone or sharper image (i mean, who really wants to chat with their meat thermometer anyway?). it’s about showing your dad that you actually care about him/ want to spend time with him/ remember and appreciate the time/thought/energy he spent raising you. so step away from the discount necktie section at the tj maxx. it doesn’t need to be pricey or elaborate, but give something with thought and with love, and give your dad a reason to brag to his buddies about how much better you are than their kids. after all, isn’t that what every dad wants for father’s day?

stuff this!

23 12 2009

domestic candy is for suckers.  sure reeses peanut butter cups, m&ms and hershey bars all taste good enough… but they’re so BORING. why burden your loved ones with the lameness that is american candy in their xmas stockings, when we can be celebrating other cultures with our fatness & diabetes. my personal faves:

the kinder egg: shockingly good chocolate for something that comes with a toy/choking hazard inside. find them at the k.horton specialty foods in the public market house.

the lion bar: most hilariously packaged candy bar ever. also delicious. also available in international section of your local shaws (with a bunch of other equally crazy foreign candy bars).

chocolate collon: and it sort of does look like little chunks of colon… delicious chunks of colon. last found at the weekend anime in westbrook (alongside the elusive and amazing everyburgers).

sakusaku panda cookies: my boyfriend only eats the sad ones. these are delicious AND hilarous- and frankly a little disturbing.  they are almost always in stock at one of my favorite congress street stores ever, the sun oriental market. (i also go there to load up on botan rice candy)

curly wurly: my personal favorite of the british candy bars, this is a twisted caramelly affair… not elaborate, just delicious. found easily at ireland’s crystal & crafts on congress st (along with some other awesome british cadbury goodness like flake and crunchie).

sponch: ok, technically this isn’t candy- but it’s called sponch, so i have to mention it. i’ve never actually eaten it because it contains gelatin, but um, did i mention that it was called sponch? some sort of marshmallowy cookie affair. apparently sponch also comes in grape. most recently spotted at the 7-11 on washington ave (across from the big apple that keeps getting robbed).

kvikk lunsj: screw you regular kit kat- the norwegians have a little bar called the kvikk lunsj that looks pretty much exactly the same. hold your own taste test by hitting simply scandinavian foods out on stevens ave (and pick up some salty licorice and cheese spread in a toothpaste tube while you’re at it).

to sir with love.

11 12 2009

riddle me this: we trust our teachers with the education and well-being of our children for the majority of their day, every day. we know that educators are hugely influential in the growth and development of our children. we know that teachers are undercompensated and overworked. we know that education is a labor of love, and that a really amazing teacher can positively change our children’s lives… in short, teachers are totally awesome- so why do we think that a $5 tchotchke  from the christmas tree shop is an appropriate way to show our thanks?

i don’t actually have any kids, but i do have a number of friends who are teachers, and i’ve seen some pretty amazingly awful things get toted home dutifully in brightly colored gift bags. seriously people, COOL IT WITH THE APPLE STUFF! (or anything that says #1 teacher or has a school bus on it for that matter).

i found this incredible article, where 2500 teachers were polled about what makes a good teacher gift, and i was a little surprising.  here is what i learned:

1. the best gifts are personal, it doesn’t even have to cost money. teachers aren’t expecting fancy swag, but they do like to know that they are recognized and appreciated. a home made card and heartfelt sentiment from you and/or your child (preferably both) will win hands down over a bargain bin sno-globe any day. however, if you can wrap your sentiment around a nice gift… well then, all the better.

2. gift cards/certificates! chances are you don’t know where your teacher likes to shop, or what he/she does on her free time- so generic bank gift cards, target, starbucks, or mall gift cards are pretty safe. a gift certificate to a  local day spa or nice local restaurant* is also appropriate. *NOTE* this does not mean APPLEBEES, it means locally owned, a little on the upscale side, and with incredible food (my beloved caiola’s would be a perfect choice). also, the amount should be enough for a full meal. for gift cards in general, if you can’t afford to give a reasonable amount- then don’t go this route. just stick with the nice card option as detailed above.

3. stuff! so you want to give a concrete “little something”, that’s fine. just stay away from the apple/teacher oriented garbage (because that is where it will inevitably wind up), and try to get something that is attractive, useful, and of good quality. a few ideas that won’t descimate your budget:

a really nice (and possibly eco-friendly) travel mug.

– an adorable novelty flash drive.

– a set of beautiful stationery or blank cards (i’m talking letter-press here not hallmark gold crown).

– a nice and sturdy reusable bag (teachers always have so much to carry!).

– or, take up a collection with the other parents, and buy one big ticket item like tickets to a pro sports game, a really kick-ass gift card, or something specifically tailored to suit your favorite teacher.

not earth shatteringly innovative,  but definitely less likely to wind up at the goodwill.

5. pitfalls! along with not buying crap, there are a couple other things to avoid in the world of classy teacher gift giving:

a gift for the classroom is not a gift for the teacher. if you want to gift the classroom with something nice, then do that separately. give the teacher something for him/her. you wouldn’t give your housekeeper windex as a holiday gift (or would you!?).

food is a slippery slope. anything low-fat, low-cal, or diet seems insulting. anything high fat or decadent is just unhealthy (and probably compounded by saturated fat laden food gifts from at least 10 other parents). aim for something in the middle. i think they’re tacky as hell, but those edible arrangements seem popular, or maybe some gorgeous foil wrapped fruit from harry & david? or if you must give sweets, let them be the best sweets available. unless they’re diabetic or allergic to chocolate, godiva is usually a no-fail situation.

at the end of the day, teacher gifts are optional, not required. if you can’t muster up anything genuinely nice or thoughtful to say to/give to your child’s teacher (let’s face it, they’re not all gems), then skip it entirely. chances are, they won’t even notice.

xmas for the cheap & lazy- part 3

4 12 2009

children are easy, they tell you exactly what they want. you can basically take any “letter to santa” style list straight to the mall and tick off the items one by one by one:

1. star wars legos- check
2. cooking mama cook off for the nintendo ds- check
3. march of the penguins on blu-ray- check
4. bratz- HELL NO!

but you get the idea. kids are unfailingly specific in their demands, and although they may want things that are out of your price range (pony!), or generally out of the question (yes bratz, i’m talking about your trampy hooker asses), they make shopping very very simple (assuming you don’t have to knife anyone for a zhu zhu hamster).

weirdly, as adults  we are trained not to ask for what we want. “oh just get me a card” is the biggest lie we tell every xmas when all we really want to do is yell “star wars legos!” from the top of santa’s lap. thus, buying for adult friends who refuse to tell us what they want is increasingly complicated.

as previously discussed, the classic “i don’t know what to get you” default presents (picture frames, cheap candy, scented candles, olive garden gift cards…) are totally stupid and not to be purchased! lucky for you, amazing online store like three potato four make it easy to give beautiful, creative, and unique gifts- without actually having to think up anything beautiful, creative, or unique on your own.

they have the most gloriously edited and perfectly handpicked mix of vintage and new items from paper goods, to furniture, to vintage toys…  I WANT EVERYTHING! admittedly, it’s a little on the pricey side- but they do have items that fit most price points if you dig around- which you will want to do, because as i already stated: EVERYTHING IS AMAZING. every. single. thing.

**UPDATE** thanks to fabulous commenter cassie, we now know that there is FREE SHIPPING through the end of the weekend at threepotatofour for facebook fans! friend them up, and then enter code: 3P4FBFAN @ checkout to redeem free shipping on domestic orders $50+

happy birthday baby jesus, i hope you like crap.

4 12 2009

wordpress usually has some interesting tidbits in the “freshly pressed” section of their home page. so today i’m checking it out, and i see an article entitled “10 Great Host/Hostess Gifts for the Holidays“, and i’m excited because i’m looking for good ideas for my “cheap and lazy xmas” series that i’m running this month- and hostess gifts are always tough. but i wouldn’t be writing this post unless i was either totally amazed, or horribly disappointed by the article. can you guess which one?

the list certainly wasn’t terrible- more criminally average. definitely not worthy of the title “great”, more  like “dr. obvious buys a hostess gift”. um, does anyone really need to be reminded that wine is an appropriate gift? a little zazz please!

1. wine is great and all… but booze is better. nothing says classy like a bottle of really good scotch.  i like johnny walker black.  for about $30 a bottle (750 ml), it will last longer than a bottle of wine, give you a better buzz, and make you look waaaay continental. although if $30 is out of your price range (or your host/ess isn’t worth it), bring beer! with all the other bottles of wine that the host/hostess will get- somebody will be really jazzed to crack into the 30 pack of PBR that you brought.

2. if you must bring a kitchen gadget, skip the william sonoma and go for something with a little more personality. i heart anything by alessi, but you could also go for some sassy refrigerator decals, or an amazing serving tray.  too much $$$? go vintage with something unexpected. you really want to go for that “holy shit that’s the awesomest thing ever”, not so much the ” i got the same one for my mom last year at bed bath & beyond”.

3. survivor style. bring some crazy foreign food with you. i tried pickled walnuts last year at xmas (sort of mushy and sour). do you know that they make kit kats in crazy flavors like ginger ale and sweet potato in japan? how about hitting the asian market for some seaweed flavored chips? or going all tophats and monocles with some caviar? i like to pick something that’s kind of gross/weird, but that people will be willing to try. hilarity ensues, i promise.

4.  games! it’s tough if you don’t know the host/hostess very well because you don’t want to give them something they already have. however, sometimes a fun group game like balderdash or apples to apples is a great way to loosen up a lame fete. want something less structured? try a really good book of party games .

5. kick ass holiday mix tape. i made my dad a mix cd  called “no more manheim steamroller please” a few years ago, and it’s still in heavy xmas rotation. holiday music doesn’t have to be grating and sing songy (or weird and new agey if you’re my dad). there is a crapload of amazing holiday music out in the world right now that doesn’t have anything to do with bing crosby (although i do love to throw a few classics into the mix). pick a playlist appropriate to the tone of the party (maybe not “oi to the world” for the office holiday party).  some suggestions: sufjan stevens put out an incredible xmas album (my favorite is “come on! let’s boogey to the elf dance!), i listen to “donna & blitzen” from badly drawn boy year round, and what party doesn’t need “yellin at the christmas tree” by billy idol?

6. some down time. maybe if your host and/hostess has spent a lot of time on the preparation/throwing of the party, it might be nice to give them something to do/watch/read when it’s all over and they finally get a chance to sit down. i can’t recommend hard enough my very favorite xmas book “holidays on ice” by david sedaris, or my all time favorite xmas movie “scrooged” (bill murray when he was still funny!),  but really any good book or movie (holiday or non) will do. sharing something that you love is pretty much always a good gift.

7. you. whether it’s taking over the bar and mixing everyone up cilantro stingers while the host is manically chopping crudite… playing master dj when the shuffle setting on the party ipod hits a deep pocket of yani… or  staying late to help clean up before the cup rings settle in permanently… if you have no money- just show up to a party and be helpful as hell. they won’t remember who bought which bottle of moderately priced wine, but they will remember what a rockstar you are.

as always, remember that it isn’t the dollar amount, it’s the thought you put into it. and also, what lame holiday parties really need isn’t more wine, it’s laughter, good conversation, and possibly a pair of helpful hands… oh, and definitely NOT more scented candles. (seriously, go put those back).