How You Feel After Traveling

July 29, 2014


Kellie Donnelly makes an interesting point about traveling in her recent Thought Catalog article, and I wanted to share a paragraph that really stood out to me.


But the sad part is once you’ve done your obligatory visits for being away for a year; you’re sitting in your childhood bedroom and realize nothing has changed. You’re glad everyone is happy and healthy and yes, people have gotten new jobs, boyfriends, engagements, etc., but part of you is screaming don’t you understand how much I have changed? And I don’t mean hair, weight, dress or anything else that has to do with appearance. I mean what’s going on inside of your head. The way your dreams have changed, they way you perceive people differently, the habits you’re happy you lost, the new things that are important to you. You want everyone to recognize this and you want to share and discuss it, but there’s no way to describe the way your spirit evolves when you leave everything you know behind and force yourself to use your brain in a real capacity, not on a written test in school. You know you’re thinking differently because you experience it every second of every day inside your head, but how do you communicate that to others?


Can you relate? I never did study aboard in college (which I regret), but I bet if I did, this is how I would have felt when I returned home after a whole semester in a different country. My sister did an intensive study aboard for four weeks in New Zealand during her junior year of college, and I remember when she came home how she talked about having this totally different perspective on life. Her adventures, the people she met, the conversations she had. It really changed her. New York City is having that effect of me now, and I’m so grateful for this adventure.

NYC Apartment Hunting is Serious Business

July 28, 2014

Brooklyn brownstone

If I think about the combined effort it took to rent all of the houses I’ve rented in my whole life before moving to NYC, it still wouldn’t come close to what’s needed to rent one dang apartment in this city! I’m telling you, renting in NYC is a crazy business.

Since we’re back on the hunt for a new apartment (only 5 months after moving in to our current place), I thought I’d give a peek into what it takes to rent an apartment in New York City. Finding our first apartment was, according to NYC standards, “easy.” Easy in the sense that it only took a few hours to find the apartment and we were approved to move in within a couple days. The bad part was that we got totally screwed by our broker (these people are the exact reason why brokers get that sleaze ball rep) and ended up paying way over what we should have for a short-term lease. Hey, you live and learn (and still get pissed about it 5 month later), right?

So, now that our short-term situation is coming to a close, I’ve been scouting apartments in Brooklyn for the past week. Our short wish list for this next apartment includes: A bright, well lit studio or one-bedroom in Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Greenpoint or Williamsburg (or somewhere close to one of those neighborhoods), and access to the roof deck or even a garden or backyard space (shared or private) would be amazing! I was lured out to Queens last week as well. We know someone who knows someone who has an apartment in Queens and since it’s all about who you know…but after checking out the apartment and realizing that Dan’s commute to the Financial District would be an hour each way, we decided to steer our search back to Brooklyn.

Along with the actual act of seeing each apartment (which requires emptying your paycheck into your MetroCard), most landlords require the following documents (for each potential tenant) to be submitted for consideration to rent:

  • Last two pay stubs
  • Letter of Employment including your yearly salary
  • Bank statement from the last 2 months
  • W2 Tax return: showing total income
  • Photo ID
  • Credit report/background check: landlords or brokers sometimes insist on running credit reports and background checks themselves (and they charge you anywhere from $25 – $75+ for each report), but we ran our own reports on for $1.00/report (PDF) and that’s been enough so far…but it really depends on the broker/landlord

A few other (annoying) things: The general rule of thumb is that tenants must make 40x the monthly rent. (For example, say we find an apartment for $2k/month. To qualify to rent the apartment, Dan and I combined must be able to prove that we make $80k/year.) If tenants do not make 40x the monthly rent, a guarantor is required to sign the lease along with the tenants. A guarantor must make 120x the monthly rent (!!) and is also required to supply tax returns, credit reports, bank statements–the works. Crazy, right?

Then, let’s say you jump through all these hoops and actually–by some stroke of luck–are approved for an apartment, you’ll be expected to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit of the same amount at signing (some places ask for the last month’s rent too). Oh…one other thing: If you worked with a broker, you can expect to pay a fee of 12 – 15% of the yearly rent (in some cases, brokers are more reasonable and charge “only” one month’s rent or 10% of the yearly rent).

Are you still with me? Are you doing a rough calculation of just how much money it costs to rent an NYC apartment? Did you just pass out? …I thought so. Wish us luck, friends.

And, hey–good luck if you’re currently hunting for a place in NYC–we feel your pain.

(Photo taken this past weekend while apartment hunting in Brooklyn.)

On having a dog in NYC

July 17, 2014


When we moved to NYC in March, our 13-year-old Boston Terrier, Bruiser, made the move with us. When we told people we were moving to NYC, one of the first questions almost everyone asked was, “Is Bruiser going, too?” The thought of not bringing our beloved “B” didn’t even cross our minds until people started pointing out how challenging it might having a dog in NYC–or any city for that matter. And not just an any dog, but our 13-year-old Bruiser, specifically.



Bruiser, like many older Boston Terriers, is blind, and, like many older dogs, she’s deaf. She started developing cataracts when she was about 9 years old and within a year or two, her cataracts had fully matured making her almost completely blind. She can see shadows and tell when a light is switched on in a dark room, and sometimes when you move your hand close to her face, she knows you’re there. Also, sadly, Bruiser has a serious heart murmur, a condition that we learned about after moving to NYC.



Twice at day, if not more, we carry Bruiser half a block to Central Park (because of her heart condition, she can’t walk very far anymore without starting to pant or struggling to breath) where she lays in the sun if it’s not too hot, goes to the bathroom, sits on the bench with us, and gets lots of “Aww”s and “So sweet”s and “Oh, is she old?”s. You would be surprised how many people ask about our little B. Even though there are hundreds of dogs in our neighborhood, people seem so intrigued by her. It’s surprising, really. Maybe it’s because we (literally) always carry her or perhaps because she has funny looking eyes now, but mostly, I hope, it’s because people can tell how much we love her.



So, to say it is challenging having Bruiser in New York City is right, but it’s a welcome challenge. And, in all honesty, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We love you so, so much B.

Would you buy a house with another couple?

July 17, 2014

Photo by Kelley MacDonald

This morning, I read an interesting article about two couples that purchased a home together in a Northwest D.C. neighborhood. Ari Weisband and his partner Rebecca had lived in houses with roommates for most of their adult lives, and when they started to discuss marriage they both knew they didn’t want to “leave these important kinds of friendships behind and end up living in what she jokingly called a “love/torture cave of nuclear family loneliness.”” Two of Ari and Rebecca’s closests friends felt similarly and they decided to buy a home together. Before the couples had time to paint the walls and move in, one couple found out they were expecting.

Here’s an excerpt…


Yes, all four of us are on the deed and, yes, we share the 30-year mortgage and food and maintenance expenses. No, there’s no division of the house into separate sections. And no, all four of us are not all having sex with each other. (Why do many people assume that if adults are willing to share a kitchen, they probably also want to share a bed?) We are just two couples who plan to live together and raise children in one household, hopefully for decades.

When we talk with friends who already have kids about our living arrangement, some are shocked that we are willing to subject ourselves to living with a crying newborn who is not our own. Others can’t imagine trying to agree on consistent rules for the kids or having every minute of their parenting observed by other adults. The idea spooks them.

I do share those concerns to an extent, but raising kids with just one other adult scares me even more. I’ve seen these same friends with children struggle to balance work, family life, community involvement, exercise, and the occasional fun activity. There’s just no way to “lean in” to all those directions at once.

While most people take for granted that dual-parent households usually have more resources to deal with life’s challenges than single parents, why stop there? By forming a household with friends who share our values, we realized we could build an even stronger system of support than we would have in separate homes.

It’s a real advantage the way four different people can each bring our own skill sets to the house, and it helps us to divide up the work in ways that suit us each. I bake bread, roast coffee, and make yogurt, another housemate grows the herbs and vegetables, and another loves to mow the lawn. Most of us hate negotiating with contractors, but one housemate relishes it. Two of us are lawyers and can draft the legal paperwork we need. The other two aren’t and can pull us back from some lawyerly excesses in what we write. We all have cleaning chores we don’t mind and others we dread, but with four of us we can usually divide up the work accordingly.


Interesting, right? While I don’t think sharing a home without division of the house into separate living spaces is for me, I would definitely consider buying a townhouse (with separate “homes” within it) with another couple. It would be great to know that you already like and trust your neighbors, wouldn’t it? Also, down the road, when we have kids and want to sneak out for a late night date after the kids are already sleeping, it would be comforting to know that someone we trust is just up/downstairs (and we’d be able to return the favor :).

So, what do you think? Would you buy a home with another couple? How about raise children in an environment like this? Shared grocery shopping, house cleaning and a mortgage split four ways sound like great perks!

(Image via my Instagram feed.)

Etsy Find: Pretty Summer Sandals

July 16, 2014

I’m consistently surprised by the amazing products and creative entrepreneurs I come across on Etsy; the Etsy community really is a total gold mine. These classic Greek leather sandals from LoveFromCyprus are chic, elegant and so pretty! They would be perfect to pack for summer vacation or to wear while out exploring the city or for date night. I’d love to wear this gold pair with a white summer dress (like this one). Handmade to order from the island of Cyprus, LoveFromCyprus sandals are made from soft, genuine leather and are available in many different colors and styles (bonus: LoveFromCyprus summer sandals are unisex). Check out the entire collection here.

And, how about this fun winged style?!

What summer sandals are you wearing this year? These?

(Images link to source.)

A Brooklyn Bed & Breakfast

July 11, 2014

Yesterday, while perusing Instagram, I came across the Urban Cowboy B&B in Brooklyn. Described as “an opportunity to experience Living in a Modern Luxury Brooklyn Townhouse, with an Industrial Williamsburg/Adirondack/Cowboy Sensibility,” Urban Cowboy B&B is the perfect mix of cabin, cowboy and industrial chic. The Brooklyn bed & breakfast offers guests six accommodation options: The Dream Catcher (average $100/night), The Peace Pipe (average $200/night), Vision Quest (average $250/night), The Lion “Master” Den (average $300/night), Kanoono Cabin (average $400/night) and The Full Cowboy (average $2000/night). I’d love to stay in the standalone cabin in the backyard for a weekend and relax in the hot tub. Wouldn’t this be a perfect way to escape the city for a night or two (or maybe a week) without having to travel a few hours north?

Urban Cowboy B&B just featured some pictures on their Facebook page taken by The Weekend Edition. Here are a few, if you’d like to see, and check out the whole gallery here

I just love the decor and that kitchen is amazing. And, how about that marshmallow bed!?

(All photos by The Weekend Edition.)

20×200 Favorites

July 7, 2014

Have you heard of the affordable art shop 20×200? The shop, launched in 2007 by Jen Bekman, offers limited-edition artwork from legendary, established, and emerging artists at affordable prices. Each piece even comes with artist-signed and numbered certificate of authenticity. Starting at $24 per print, 20×200 is a great place to start when searching for affordable art. I’d love to start a collection soon.

Here are few of my favorite 20×200 prints right now…

This post was not sponsored by 20×200, in case you were wondering : ) in fact, none of my posts are sponsored. xo

(Images link to sources.)

Happy Fourth of July!

July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July, friends! I love it when holidays land on Fridays, don’t you? This photo sums up what we’ll be doing this afternoon (if the weather cooperates), and I wouldn’t have it any other way! Hope you have a relaxing weekend.


Mergers and Acquisitions (well, only the mergers part)

July 2, 2014

photo credit: Kelley MacDonald of The City and Us

Please excuse my absence over the past couple of weeks or so, readers (if there are any of you out there…hello…?). I have some catching up to do–that’s for certain–but, first, I have a bit of blog related news: over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be importing some content here on The City and Us that lived elsewhere for a while but will now be taking up residence here, and I’m happy to have all of these memories and musings in one spot (finally). I hope you enjoy reading the new (old) posts!

And just for fun, how gorgeous are these peonies!? Peonies are one of my favorite flowers. I took these pictures last June when we were house sitting in Vermont.

photo credit: Kelley MacDonald of The City and Us

photo credit: Kelley MacDonald of The City and Us

photo credit: Kelley MacDonald of The City and Us


A Weekend of Scooting, Carouselling and Cuddling

June 21, 2014

Sam&Dan1 Just a few photos from a relaxing weekend last month spent exploring our Upper West Side neighborhood with Pat, Meg, Sam and Caitie.


In Central Park, Sam climbed on the rope structure at the Heckscher Playground and practiced scooting.


Little Caitie was happy to meander through Central Park and let us snap pictures of her and cuddle with her at every stop. 



Dan, Meg and Sam rode the Central Park Carousel; it turns out, the Carousel is as fun for adults as it is for kids ; )



Thanks Pat, Meg, Sam and Cait for coming to stay with us! We had the best weekend! xo


P.S. Our Blue Apron gift to Pat & Meg.

Blogmilk | Brandi Bernoskie