In the limbo between winter and spring

Yesterday I bundled up like it was winter again. The temperature was in the upper thirties in the morning today as well — not terribly cold when you figure in all the weeks of temps in the twenties and even the teens, but I pulled on my gloves and covered my ears like there was a Polar Vortex, because I don’t do well when the weather changes quickly. A thirty-degree drop in temperature or a quick shift from dry weather to wet can bring on an attack of the sneezes. A quick Google search shows I’m not the onlyone to deal with this.

So far I’m sniffle-free, with only a hint of a sore throat, so I’m hoping to stay allergy-free for a little while longer, but I’ve been thinking about the way the seasons impact my motivations.

I’ve been going to the gym on and off (mostly on!) since last summer, even through some of the very cold weeks this winter, but after experiencing the warmth of last week it’s been easy to give myself a pass these cold mornings. It should get easier as the weather gets nicer, but I’ve also known myself to become inert once the weather’s been nice for a while. Too many hot, busy days and I’ll stay at home in front of the AC even on a perfectly pleasant day because I’m too lazy to leave home.

I think this means I should always live somewhere that has seasons. If I lived someplace where the weather was nice all the time, I’d eventually get complacent and never leave the apartment, knowing I could always do it the next day. And if the weather was terrible all the time – well, you get the picture. I can be a bit of a homebody when left entirely to my own devices, so it’s good I have the contrasting seasons to remind me to step outside.

I’ll be getting out this weekend to go see a show with a friend, but I also want to take a walk and see how the tiny park near my apartment is doing. I spotted some daffodils last weekend; I hope the frost hasn’t hurt them. About a year ago, on a warm, sunny, April morning, I had an appointment to see my apartment for a second time and ultimately to put down a deposit. On my way over I walked by this tiny park. I’d walked by it many times before, but I’d never been there in spring, and I managed to catch it while it was in full bloom. There was a full palette of colors and flower varieties, and I just sat on a bench and took it all in. By the time I got to the apartment, my vision was a little rosy, and the sunlight streaming in through the windows didn’t hurt either. It was a good decision even so.

The temperature is supposed to climb back up to 63 degrees on Saturday. I can hardly wait.

Has everyone recovered from the winter? What are you most looking forward to about spring?

And, a post by me about that Toughest Job in the World video over at F’d in Park Slope.


A trip to Ikea in Brooklyn

My mom was in town this weekend and one of the fun things we did during her visit was take the Ikea ferry. We’d spent several hours in Manhattan and were sitting in Bryant Park deciding what to do next when she reminded me not only that I’d said that I wanted to go to Ikea but that there was a ferry that would get us there.

She was right on both counts. In a rare moment of wishing I had a smartphone (NB: my mom doesn’t have one either, but 99% of my visitors in New York do, so this usually isn’t a problem), I called information and got connected to Ikea so I could ask what pier they left from. The Ikea automated message was really unhelpful: Unless you knew your party’s extension, they assumed you wanted to talk to Customer Service and rattled off an 800 number.

So I texted a friend, who looked it up and texted me right back. (Carly, you’re the best.)

The ferry costs $5, but you can apply that cost toward your purchase (and there’s something about getting a free ride back if you purchased something, but it was confusing, so look it up yourself). Even if you don’t feel like buying any furniture at Ikea, you can get yourself a hot dog and a soda or some pizza, or, better yet, FIVE CINNAMON BUNS with that $5. I wouldn’t recommend eating five cinnamon buns by yourself, but what I’m saying is, you can’t go wrong with taking the ferry to Ikea.

Why did I want to go to Ikea? I needed a rug for my living room. I’ve been in my apartment for nearly a year and I’ve wanted to buy a rug for that long. This weekend I did it. It’s a round 51 inch rug, with mixed brown and grey and white fibers. When we got it home and looked at it, my mom and I both agreed it wasn’t perfect – slightly bigger, and less grey, would’ve been better – but it’s decent, and the grey is helped by some grey-and-beige patterned pillows I picked up at Ikea, too.

During my first month in New York my roommate and I went to Ikea to buy shelf brackets to put up a shelf in our long hallway. We had to call our other roommate and have her talk us out of buying cheap bar stools to put beneath the shelf. In retrospect, bar stools would have been a really terrible idea. We were drunk on the exhaustion that comes from wandering the Ikea showroom.

Pro tip: If you more or less know what you’re looking for, skip the showroom. Get yourself to the second floor (my mom and I turned left at the bathrooms and snuck past the registers) and you’ll be able to go straight to the items you’re looking for. Who needs to see the rugs laid out with furniture you’re not buying?

So who has made the Ikea pilgrimage, and what have you taken home with you?

How to find an apartment in NYC

It’s spring! The temperature is rising, the days are getting beautifully long, and pretty soon, people will be moving apartments.

Obviously people move year-round, but spring and summer seem to be especially popular times to hunt for a new apartment, probably since so many people move to New York each summer after they graduate from college. I found my current apartment around this time last year and while I plan to stay because I love my place, I thought I’d share some of the apartment-hunting advice I’ve come up with since moving here. Some of it is probably applicable for other cities, but from what I’ve heard about other cities, New York is an especially complicated place to find a place to live.

Most listings go up about a month before the apartment is available. June listings, for instance, won’t go up until May 1. You can start looking earlier than that, but you probably won’t find anything, unless you’re willing to pay for a month’s overlap — not always a bad thing if you want extra time to move! Craigslist and Padmapper are my favorite sites to use, since they both have a map feature. The map is useful because realtors will often say something is in one neighborhood in the listing title, but the actual address makes it clear that it’s in a different neighborhood.

Know your neighborhoods. If you have specific neighborhoods that you’re interested in, make sure you know what the borders are. When I first moved to New York, we were looking to live in Clinton Hill while my roommate went to Pratt for her MA, and we quickly learned that Classon Ave is the eastern border of Clinton Hill, despite many listings to the contrary. If something looks too good to be true (way under-priced for the neighborhood or for how nice it looks in pictures), it probably is too good to be true. But if something is a little under-priced and quirky, check it out — that’s how I found my apartment!

Use your resources: the internet + friends. Looking up information about neighborhoods online is helpful, but friends and coworkers are also a great a resource when you’re apartment hunting. Not only do they know the neighborhood’s boundaries, they usually have an idea of what the going rate is in their neighborhood, and they may even be able to put you in touch with their landlords, who might have openings nearby, or with brokers who know the neighborhood. 

If you love a place, hold on tight. When you find an apartment you like, you have to move fast. Often you’ll need to put down a deposit the day you see a place. Make sure to bring someone with you, preferably someone who will be even tougher on the place than you and will notice things like mouse poop or roach traps, will remember to check the water pressure and outlets, ask about how utilities are handled, check the locks, etc. Google the address and if possible the landlord before signing the lease, in case other people have already taken to the internet to talk about how terrible the building or owner is. There’s a site called, where you can sometimes see if there are 311 complaints about a building or a landlord – definitely worth a look.

Get your documents ready in advance. Ready to commit? Then be prepared to put down a deposit, in cash or cashier check — but never let a broker rush you if you’re feeling nervous. Brokers and landlords will often ask for a packet of application documents, like a scan of your photo ID, proof of employment and salary, your last couple bank statements, and a credit check. Having all these in order, saved in your email and ready to send along, can make applying for an apartment a much speedier process. If you’re a student or not yet employed, make sure you have guarantor lined up and be prepared to provide their financial information. The process for renting in a co-op is even more complicated, and I believe usually involves an interview, so make sure to ask what’s required of you when you fill out an application.

Be prepared to put a lot of money down as a deposit. At the application stage, you’ll be asked for a good faith deposit (often around $500). When you put down a deposit, the owner or broker has to the place off the market. If your application isn’t accepted for some reason, you should usually get the deposit back – but make sure to clarify that (and get in writing!) when you do put down your deposit. If you change your mind after placing a deposit, you usually cannot get your money back. 

Once you’ve committed to an apartment, you’ll hand over the rest of the deposit. By-owner rentals usually only require first month’s rent and a security deposit. If you have to use a broker, you’ll find that most of them charge a fee on top of that. One month’s rent is pretty standard, but some brokers (usually the more established ones, like Corcoran) charge anywhere from 10 to 15% of the year’s rent. Unless you really love an apartment and are committed to staying for a couple years, these expensive brokers often aren’t worth it. 

Read your lease carefully before signing it. Once your application is accepted, you’ll get a copy of your lease. Read it carefully, and ask questions about or Google any clauses you don’t understand. 

After the lease is signed, congratulations! You’ve managed to rent an apartment in NYC. Now you have about two or three weeks to pack up all your things and move. Moving between places in Brooklyn? I’ve used Greenbaum Expert Moving a couple times and found them to be reasonably priced, friendly, and very fast each time. All movers are very busy right around the first of the month, especially on the weekends, so if you can move in a little early or late, or midweek, you might get a better rate. 

For those who have done the NYC apartment hunt before, any suggestions to add? For those looking to move here, leave your questions in the comments!