Tuesday, December 30, 2008
That's the disappointing thing about the Internet - you think you're slightly original and then you find out there is an entire online community dedicated to your individual quirk. I used to think I was the only person who obsessed over what chairs to put with a Docksta table (and who recognized it as a Saarinen knockoff), until I stumbled on apartmenttherapy.com. It turns out there are about a million of us.
Now, with the economy in the toilet, everybody is frugal. So, just for the record, I've decided this is not a frugality blog.
- First of all, frugal is such an ewww word. It has a ring of deprivation to it.
- Cost-savings tips are boring. (Pay off your credit card. Cook lentils. Zzzzzz.)
- I am a snob. I just happen to be a broke snob.
So, what is Bromeliad Living if it's not a frugality blog? It's about the stuff I've enjoyed on other people's blogs:
- amusing commentary
- aesthetically pleasing do-it-yourself projects
- pretty pictures
- good deals
- pretty pictures
- useful information
It's about enjoying beautiful things and fun experiences independent of income. It's equal parts frugality and elitism.
It's the beginning of. . . the frugerati.
Ha, finally my own digital niche. Go ahead, Google it. It ain't out there.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
According to The New York Times, craft stores had higher sales this year because people were trying to save money by making homemade gifts. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons:
1. You and your glue gun cannot beat out East Asia on price.
2. Crafting is a lot like auditioning for American Idol or wearing a thong to the beach - one of those things that many try but few can pull off with dignity. Unless you graduated from art school or are part of that .2% of the human population with real talent, your craft will be ugly. Trust me on this. It will also tend to be of a useless nature.
3. Ugly crafts are only appreciated when given by children. (Valerie, if you ever happen to read this - You know that seashell topiary I gave you? Get rid of it. I don't know what I was thinking.)
If you really want something cheap and sustainable, give a pre-owned gift. My mother is the queen of second-hand gifts, which is why there's an Ann Taylor cashmere sweater hanging in my closet, my friends receive vintage jewelry, and my baby cousins get new-to-them toys and books every week. Nobody sniffs at the lavender Goodwill tag she sometimes forgets to peel off the bottom. The gifts are higher quality than we cheap people would normally buy and often one of a kind. If we don't like them, we give them to somebody else.
The creativity comes in sifting out the right item for the right person, which means digging through a lot of junk, a craft of its own. If you're new to this, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Never pass up a free or extremely cheap basket. Baskets are great for corraling a bunch of small interesting things that aren't enough for a gift on their own. Don't buy a new basket. America is filled with baskets.
- Never pass up a decent picture frame. Rip out the ugly picture that's in it and order a flattering print of your friend, her kids, her dog, house or whatever. If you must glue something to it, make it easy to pick off.
- Save shower gift sets. They make great regifted gifts for the purpose of regifting. Nobody actually uses a shower set. They put it in a drawer for when they need a gift.
- It must be clean and undamaged. Bonus points if it still has the tags. Double bonus points if the tag says Bloomingdales.
After six months of searching, I now possess an IKEA Hovet mirror. The thing is huge, more than six feet tall. It's like a doorway into another dimension. I don't know how IKEA chooses the names for their products, but I think "hovet" must be Swedish for "dramatically large decorative item that will completely transform your space with its presence." I expect hovet to work its way into the lexicon of English decorator lingo.
"Jarrod, I love your gold-leafed Ming wall divider."
"Thank you. I think it lends real hovetas to my pied-a-terre."
Have you ever done the you know you are cheap when . . . question. You know you are cheap when . . . you won't shop IKEA unless it's half off. The Hovet mirror is only $99 full price, less than a third of the cost of any other huge leaning wall mirror. But I held out for a $50 one on craigslist.org. I even had an RSS feed going for 'Hovet.' Thanks to three local IKEA locations, there's a Hovet for sale every two or three weeks around here, so I could be picky and only bother with one in Brooklyn or Queens.
Here's the romantic back story - while I'm E-mailing someone in Williamsburg about her Hovet, Tom is sneaking out to Sunset Park to pick up a Hovet mirror that he found. He even told the woman not to respond to my query ab0ut the mirror. She was an extremely willing co-conspirator. He dragged it home by himself on a snowy icy night, propped it up in the hallway of our building and pretended to be locked out of the room.
Love my honey. Love my mirror. I think I will go gaze lovingly at both for awhile.
The Hemnes table is marked down from $129.99 to $79.99 for the IKEA Winter Sale in Brooklyn from December 26 to January 19. (Comes in black, yellow, blue and white.) Still too much for girlfriend, who would like to figure out how to make one from cardboard.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I had a traditional silver frame my mom picked up at Goodwill for $4. It originally held a mirror, which broke in transit (sorry mom). It took awhile, but I finally found the right replacement, a drawing of a female head by Amedeo Modigliani.
I printed it out to the size of my frame and - here's the hard part - taped it to a window and traced it on piece of paper.
Monday, December 22, 2008
The Dutch are known for being pragmatic, straightforward and - best of all - cheap. Here's a breakdown of our expenses for the two of us for four days in Amsterdam:
$45 Transportation to and from airports
Total: $459 USD
Here's what the same trip would have cost us without the free airfare and hotel discounts:
Our free trip was a staggering one-tenth the cost of regular price, all courtesy of the world wide web. (See this post for details about how we won.)
Of course, our "free" trip still ended up costing us almost five hundred bucks that we weren't planning on. We could have spent the weekend in Brooklyn eating pasta and watching What Not to Wear and paid ourselves $460 for staying home. But there's more to life than being cheap. There is an unquantifiable value that comes from enriching our lives via travel. So glad we got to see the Heineken brewery.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Here are the "Prem+" seats with individual entertainment systems.
Here are the fully reclining "Biz" class cabin seats.
We were the only two people in our Premium+ cabin. We had enough room to host our own rave.
OpenSkies served prosciutto salad and chicken on the way out, lamb with ratatouille on the return.
Home again. Breukelen and Lange Eylandt below.
Big selection of interesting cactus, venus fly traps, and other plants, but not practical for a souvenir.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Oh-so-yummy Dutch pancakes or pannekoek, which are like French crepes only the size of hub caps. This is apple, cinnamon ice cream and whipped cream at The Pancake Bakery, just down the street from the Anne Frank House.
This is deer and poached pears. Also yummy. You can get almost anything on a pancake, including fried chicken.
Tom does this at home.
Dutch food tends to be stick-to-your-ribs fare, which was great in December. Here is a ham, egg and Gruyere cheese sandwich at The American Cafe, which is where Mati Hari had her wedding reception. I'll bet the guests were stuffed.
Here is a dark bread sandwich with cheese and croquettes, which are little fried things. Not sure of the contents. I guessed potatoes, Tom guessed fish.
For real flavor, the Dutch go Indonesian. (Indonesia was a Dutch colony.) We had an incredible spread at Long Pura. This is a rice table, or rijsttafel. You sample a half a dozen different small goodies over rice. The rice itself was amazing, light and lemony and steamed in a banana leaf. It was a meal in itself.
Beautiful presentation. I wanted to eat the carrot flower in the middle but it got taken away.
The waiter said a flower behind one ear means you are married and a flower behind the other ear means you are in love (I forget which ear was which). If you eat the flowers, it means you are in love with food. OK, I made that up. But I did eat the lemongrass, which was apparently intended for decoration. For the record, it tastes lemony.
We skipped the hotel buffet breakfasts. They ran 20-30 euros a person.
The tour was fun and educational. We got to sample hops and barley, and we brewed our own wort, which looked and tasted like something you'd spend a lot of money on at a health food store.
After our first sample of the real thing, we were lured into singing Dutch folk songs and E-mailing the results to our friends. So much for drinking responsibly.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Anne started the diary when she was 13, and, like many people, I read it as a teenager. Touring as an adult, I felt a wave of motherly protection toward young Anne. Such a stupid waste of a beautiful young life. At the same time, Anne inspires. Trapped in a dark room with nothing but a pen and paper, a mere child defeated the Nazis.
The staff allowed us to check in early. We waited for a few minutes in the breakfast room. Breakfasts were fairly simple - bread, cheese, yogurt, and most importantly, strong coffee.
We got upgraded to a room with a balcony.
Our favorite feature of the room. Love how the light scatters from the pendant lamp.
The hotel was overbooked, so we got upgraded to an apartment in a nearby canal house. This is more square-footage than we have at home. Plenty of space to dance a happy upgrade jig. I'm sure it would normally cost hundreds of dollars just to flush the toilet in a place like this.
We used all the pods for the espresso maker.
Interestingly, Killian van Rensselaer, a board member of the Dutch West India Company, owned one of the canal houses, and the villages of Rensselaer and Rensselaerswijck in upstate New York are named after him, dooming generations of Americans to a 16-syllable address.
Of course, New Amsterdam, our home base, has plenty of Dutch place names like Harlem, Brooklyn, Hobokoen, Jamaica and Long Island, the last of which is still pronounced by the natives pretty much exactly as the Dutch spelled it (Lange Eylandt).