Monthly Archives: November 2009

He’s with the band

Just when you thought there could be no end to the fashion portmanteaus, here comes yet another: “man-gagement” rings. For some reason, several news outlets, including ABC News, reported last week that jewelers were noticing an uptick in men sporting engagement rings–it must have either been a slow news week, or writers were just itching to work in a pop culture reference to appear cool and clever. I must have counted at least three that referenced Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” song. You know the one.

The origins of this resurgence in men’s engagement rings seems to have been galvanized by Jennifer Hudson, the American Idol contestant-turned-Academy Award-winning actress who put a $15k Neil Lane ring on her fiance’s finger. Some sources say that men feel it’s only fair to get something nice after spending three months’ pay on an engagement ring for their partners, but others are saying that women are practically dragging their men to the jewelry store to get banded–much like a bear being tagged before getting released back into the wild. The “logic” is that once women accept a ring, they’re essentially marked “do not touch,” while their men are free to go gallivanting ring-free. Some men, however, just like the idea of having a symbol of their promise (aww) because they love their partners THIS MUCH. Whatever the case, you can bet these rings are made of manly-sounding, rugged materials, such as tungsten (yeah!), steel (hoo-ah!) and cobalt (effin’ A, yo).scott kay

The SK Cobalt “Braid” ring from Scott Kay

I’m all for the male engagement ring, only if my potential mate feels like having one, not because I want to mark my territory. I’m not a dog, for god’s sake, or a bitch, for that matter. But the idea of this trend as a new phenomenon is misleading; according to Moyen & Co. Jeweller, in some countries, both men and women wear engagement rings, and often the man’s ring serves a dual purpose as a wedding ring. And in Spain, women may buy their men nice watches as part of their engagement.

I’d be down with giving him a nice watch, but my boyfriend, Dr. J, has had the same watch since high school and has no desire to get another, which is fine by me. I think in general this whole jewelry industry is getting out of hand: “man-gagement” rings, promise rings, pre-engagement rings, even so-called “Right Hand” rings for ladies who want to declare their happiness as strong-minded, single–and apparently affluent–women. (Because, you know, nothing says “I’m independent” than listening to big jewelry companies tell them what they need to  buy to show the world just how independent they are. You go, girls!) I mean, is there no end to the types of women’s engagement rings out there? It’s absolutely mind-boggling!

Bottom line–if you want to get one for your fiance, and he actually wants one, then go for it. If not, more power to you. Either way, easy on the portmanteaus, and let’s avoid relying on trite pop lyrics to get the point across, shall we?


Filed under bridal wave, Fashion, shop 'til you drop

Jeggings and shooties and shants, oh my!

Normally, I’m all about coming up with clever names for things, but I wonder whether fashion writers are going too far these days with making up names for “hybrid” styles of clothing, throwing them at an unwitting public, and seeing what sticks. In the latest issue of Lucky magazine, for example, there’s a whole page dedicated to the “shootie,” which is something that falls between a bootie and a shoe. I’ve also heard people refer to them as “pooties” a cross between a pump and a bootie,  but my inner 10-year-old always snickers):


Shootie-ing up with Christian Louboutin (l.) and Prada (r.)

And then there are “jeggings,” or jean leggings–denim pants so skintight that only the skinniest girls can get away with them without the slightest hint of camel toe (although wearing a long tunic top or sweater would easily cover up any such problem areas in the crotchal region). These are often worn with the aforementioned shooties:

thumbnail_twiggy black cat

Slim pickins at James Jeans

I think the Brits might be the best at coming up with these things, what with such quaint phrases as “shants,” which are sheer, almost transparent pants (big on the spring 2010 runways,  believe it or not), and “coatigans,” or coats that look like cardigans and vice versa:

Sheer shant madness on Roberto Cavalli‘s spring 2010 runways; a cozy coatigan at Anthropologie

Even though some names seem more ridiculous than others, somehow I think we shouldn’t blame fashion writers for trying out something new. In fact, if it weren’t for some enterprising sartorial scribes, we wouldn’t have skorts and jorts, and then where would we be? We’d have a lot of women tennis players baring all on the court and Budweiser wouldn’t have come up with this awesome commercial:


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Pour Some (Fake) Sugar on Me


My relationship with sugar is, well, contentious. I love consuming it in mass quantities in any form possible, but I hate how it has that annoying tendency to make my bottom half balloon out of proportion. Not to mention its uncanny ability to bring on diabetes. How DARE sugar mess with my health! Bastard.

So, when Trader Joe’s started carrying a little something called “stevia,” I gave it a go. It’s got the best of everything on paper–it’s naturally derived, like sugar, from the stevia plant, a member of the sunflower family. It’s supposed to have a slower onset of sweetness on the taste buds and that sweetness tends to linger longer than actual sugar. It also has the amazing ability to have 300 times the sweetness of sugar while being remarkably low-carb. Sounds too good to be true, right?

When I tried it the first time, I was sorely disappointed. To me, it tasted no different from other sugar alternatives such as Splenda and NutriSweet, and it made my morning coffee, well, less than satisfying. But since I had nearly 10 ounces of stuff just sitting around, I gave it another shot. And another. And another. Eventually, after about a week, I started really getting into it. Then I got to thinking, Is it just a coincidence that stevia looks a lot like cocaine or heroin? (Not that I would know, but hey, I’ve seen The Wire.)

Long story short, I think I’d much rather use stevia than any of the synthetic stuff, but in the end–diabetes be damned–sugar tastes the best.

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The Birch is On

birch beer

One thing I enjoy about bouncing around the country is discovering regional treats that I’d otherwise never get to try. Take, for example, this glorious beverage Norteasterners call “birch beer.” True to its name, this fizzy little beverage is made from birch bark extracts, and is often described as being similar to root beer, although I find it to have more of a cream soda-y taste. So according to my “very reliable sources,” birch beer can come in all kinds of colors, from brown to red to clear, and it’s actually birch oil (distilled sap) that gives the drink its distinct flavor. Since it’s indigenous to the Northeast and Newfoundland, it’s no wonder I’d never heard of it on the West Coast.

What I’d like to know is where one can find an alcoholic birch beer–that’s when birch tree sap is fermented rather than distilled into oil. But even more than that, I’d love to know what would possess a someone to look at a pretty nondescript birch tree and say “Hey, I wonder if I can make a drink out of that?” Ya gotta wonder about people sometimes.

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Attack of the Mod people

How could I have not known about Modcloth? Not only are the clothes cute, but they also focus on independent designers, vintage pieces and innovative wares at fairly decent prices. Also, kudos to the site’s copywriters for coming up with clever descriptions and funny style names, which rely on puns and pop-culture references to get the point across, such as “This Tee is Grrrreat” tiger head-print shirt, the “Zig-a-zig Ah” printed dress, and the “Night at the Crops-bury” sequined cropped tank top. (Admittedly, they can get carried away sometimes, but the site is so fun it’s easy to overlook those moments.) Modcloth is like Anthropologie’s snarky, potentially dorkier younger sister–in fact, the site styles its clothes in true fashion.

Here are just a few picks at the top of my wish list:

Picture 9

Checkpoint top and Amber Road coat

Picture 12 Timed Race watch necklace and Love is All Around wallet

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Cold Comforts

Only a real ice cream lover would crave a big, fat scoop of the good stuff after being drenched in a cold rain on a dark and stormy Halloween night. My friends and I tried JP Lick‘s in Davis Square, which is a local “chain” ice creamery with locations all over the Boston area. It’s known for its homemade ice cream and fun flavors, like white coffee, Wild Turkey bourbon and butter cashew, so naturally, when I saw that they had “cream stout” on tap (ha), I went for it.

JP Lick's

Anyway, it was one of those things that started out as a good idea, but sort of fell short in execution. Imagine a Bud Light vanilla ice cream float, and you’ve got a clearer picture of what I was tasting that night. I’m not one to make snap judgments (ok, who am I kidding, I do when it comes to food) but while JP Lick’s was decent, it’s nothing compared with San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery or Mitchell‘s or Humphry Slocombe in terms of craftsmanship and flavor innovation. So how about it, Boston? What’s the best ice cream ya got?

I think the highlight of my experience at JP Lick’s was, sadly, not the ice cream, but some random girl who walked in wearing a huge stuffed magnet around her neck, and at each end were yellow rubber ducky things. It took me a while to figure out they were chicks. Hence, “chick magnet.” Durrrr. Maybe there was more stout in the ice cream than I thought.

What: JP Lick’s
Where: 4A College Ave., Davis Square, Somerville, 617-666-5079

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Happiness is an Asian Supermarket

Stepping into a well-stocked, cheap Asian market in a new city that’s not on the West Coast is always a rush, especially after you’ve spent too many bucks for a teeny bottle of soy sauce in the “international” aisles at your local chain grocery store. Last night, after work, I headed to Boston’s Chinatown to find C Mart, which, according to Yelp reviews, was the shizzle:

C Mart

It was just on the outskirts of Chinatown, down the street from the Orange line Chinatown stop (obviously). I missed it a few times because the storefront didn’t look much like a grocery store. But entering the store, a familiar sensation hit me like a ton of bricks–and I’m not talking about that characteristic fishy smell that so often assaults your nostrils even before you set foot inside the door. It’s that feeling of pure glee, that “kid in a candy store” kind of excitement. Before moving to Boston, I had prepared myself for a year of living “caucasianally,” meaning going without easy access to my favorite Asian ingredients at cheap prices and having to shop at Shaw’s or any of the various Italian-American independent stores. Not that I have a problem with that–I’m as much into freshly made portobello mushroom ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, burgers and fries and meatloaf as the next chowhound. But no fermented tofu? No green curry paste? No morning glory? A little part of me died inside at the idea.

I knew I was in the right place when I saw rows of cookies, candies, sauces and packaged goods with nonsensical Engrish names; a healthy assortment of fresh veggies, including bok choy, snow peas, pea shoots, mustard, gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) and morning glory; and various pig parts that you’d never find at a mainstream grocery store (case in point: pork bung and ears, pictured below. Flanking these delicacies were packages of brains and feet. Want not, waste not, I always say.)

Picture 4

I might mention that the store wasn’t exactly the cleanest place in the world, what with rotting vegetables sitting on a “clearance” shelf, brownish, barely salvageable bean spouts and a shady-looking box of raw chicken drumsticks sitting unrefrigerated on the floor in all its salmonella-y glory. Also, I shudder to think how long some of their packaged goods have been on the shelf. But as a shopper who’s hard up for the simple joys in life, like boxes of Pocky, canned bamboo and water chestnuts, chrysanthemum tea, seasoned seaweed snacks, dried sour plums, steamed red bean cakes, Korean barbecue marinades, mochi, rice crackers and sriracha sauce, to name a few, I ain’t complaining too much.

What: C Mart
Where: 692 Washington St., Boston; (617) 338-1717

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Cheap Thrills

The Garment District in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA, gives new meaning to the phrase “rummage sale:”

garment district

It’s not the greatest photo in the world, but you don’t need a Nikon to figure out the gist of the place. This huge, two-story warehouse, located near MIT, is best known for its crazy selection of Halloween and costume gear, as well as nice vintage clothes. Its “clothes by the pound” setup on the ground floor, however, is a draw for most bargain shoppers who come here to find a steal–and a point of notoriety for germaphobic, hyperallergic shoppers who’d rather blind themselves with Purell than rifle through a pile of dirty clothes on the floor.

The concept sounds cool enough for a vintage/secondhand clothing buyer such as myself. You get a big plastic bag and you fill it up with stylish garments (admittedly of dubious origin), then you weigh the bag on a scale and pay $1 a pound. Not bad, right? I thought so myself, so I tried it one night during the Halloween costume rush.

At first, as I gingerly picked through the clothes, fearing that I’d come across some poop-stained pants (as one Yelper described in her experience at the Garment District), find some lice-ridden, moth-eaten sweater, or at the very least catch pinkeye from a jacket that had been passing through the Goodwill/Salvation Army/homeless shelter circuit since 1954. I tried not to think about what might be lurking underneath the mountain of clothes, or how long they’d been there, and instead focused on the task at hand: finding something, anything, that is remotely cute to make the experience–and risking catching a disease–all worth it.

After about fifteen minutes, I finally found an adorable cream secretary blouse in what looked to be my size. Score! Spurred on by the excitement of the find, I renewed my search for more clothes, digging a little more confidently and actually stepping into the middle of the mess to see if I’d missed anything.

Here’s the part where you’d expect a twist and I tell you I ended up finding a decomposing rat in a shoe, or a fellow shopper was struck dead by a massive asthma attack brought on by an ancient faux fur coat, or I that I really did catch pinkeye (it would serve me right, wouldn’t it?). No such luck, my friends. (I did, however, see several unfortunate Christmas sweaters, ill-fitting elastic-waist pants and more polyester than you could shake a stick at. That alone is tragic.)

My story has a rather mundane ending: I basically lost my nerve and took my slim pickings to the cash register. The grand total? 30 cents. While I couldn’t shake the feeling I had creepy crawlies on my clothes and hands when I walked out of the Garment District, I think I’ll be back again for round 2. Only maybe next time I’ll bring some latex gloves and maybe a face mask and goggles.

P.S. I’d show you a picture of what I bought, but I haven’t gotten around to irradiating the thing.

What: The Garment District
Where: 200 Broadway, Cambridge (Kendall Square); (617) 876-5230

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