Sleep Gadgets That Work?

Sleeping pillsRecent events have established the crucial importance of sleep: we, especially those of us in lower income brackets, don’t get enough of it, and the lack of it can contribute to our untimely deaths. But even if we do have or make the time, and invest in a good mattress, and practice appropriate sleep hygiene (no laptops in bed, guys), sometimes sleep remains elusive.

Refinery 29 has rounded up seven sleep gadgets that are effective and worth the money.

Sleep feels like a college I will never get into. Like, my teachers are all, “Sure, apply to Sleep. You never know!” But then they leave brochures for Insomniac online night classes on my desk, because who are we kidding? Over the past few months, I decided to throw some technology at the problem. Don’t get me wrong; I’m well-versed in natural remedies and the importance of sleep hygiene. I work out, my supplements are stocked, and my phone is chock-full of guided sleep meditations. Usually, that stuff (plus, some classic breathing techniques) does the trick. Sometimes, though, I need a little extra help. 

These range from goggles that counterintuitively pulse lights at you called “Glo to Sleep” ($30) to a “Serene House Angel Ultrasonic Scentilizer Aromatherapy Diffuser” ($191) which sounds like it should do your laundry for you and then dip your feet in oil. Babygirl is also a fan of a white noise app I downloaded for free from iTunes so, you know. For what that’s worth.


Saying Yes to the Dress, Pt 2: KLEINFELD’S

Wedding Dress Shopping Saks 5th AvenuePerhaps you remember K, my dear friend who is getting married in March and looking for a traditional, princess-y kind of dress for her special day. A month ago, we went to the original Saks Fifth Avenue to look at their collection of gowns. A few days ago, we went to the Jerusalem of wedding dress stores: Kleinfeld. In between K visited a couple of other places — here in New York and also with her mother on the west coast, which is coincidentally where the wedding will be, in the desert – but nothing struck her fancy.

So walking into the holy land, hopes were high. K’s especially. Her mom was with her, visiting, and her best friend; all three of them watch the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress” that made Kleinfeld a household name.

As we’ve established, I was not much of a bride myself and am now a bemused if enthusiastic observer. My job was to help K feel good about herself and to peer, close up, at an alien, ultra-feminine, straight-lady-oriented, beauty-pageant world of commerce.

I was not disappointed. But I may have been the only one.  READ MORE


More Thoughts on Shoes

shoe rack

So the other day I put on a pair of heels, and I looked down at them and thought “okay, if I were Sherlock Holmes, what would I be able to discover about me by looking at these shoes?”

(This is a true story. I literally stared at my feet and pretended to be Sherlock Holmes.)

So I thought “well, they’re pretty functional, they have no embellishments, the heel is short and balanced for ease of walking, and there’s that seam that’s partially ripped on the inner side of the left shoe.”

The seam is the most telling part, the Sherlock Holmes half of me told the Nicole half. “A ripped seam might say you can’t afford a new pair of shoes, but the rest of your outfit disproves that. No, this ripped seam clearly tells me that you had the opportunity to buy a new pair of basic black heels but you did not because you do not care about these shoes. You wear them once every six months and then line them back up in the corner of the closet.”

And then I wished I could just wear my everyday ballet flats to the restaurant instead.



Snackwave: A Comprehensive Guide To The Internet’s Saltiest Meme


Over the past few years, an aesthetic we like to call “snackwave” has trickled up from Tumblr dashboards. Now a part of mainstream culture, snackwave is everywhere: it’s printed on American Apparel clothes and seen in Katy Perry music videos. It’s the antithesis to kale-ridden health food culture and the rise of Pinterest-worthy twee cupcake recipes. It’s the wording in your Instagram handle, a playful cheeseburger selfie, Jennifer Lawrence announcing on the red carpet that she’s hungry for a pizza. In snackwave world, everyone is Claudia Kishi, and your junk food drawer is also your blog.

What we’ve written here is merely a guide to understanding the rise of this very Internet 3.0-specific aesthetic. Snackwave is no longer a lowbrow joke bonding tweens across Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs. It’s being co-opted by corporate Twitter accounts and fashion companies, both of whom are seeking to talk just like their ‘net-savvy young consumers.

Both of us are very much a part of this scene—in fact, we’ve got McDonald’s Sweet ‘n Sour sauce IVs hooked up to our veins right now. We know snackwave inside and out. So grab a bag of Funyuns, a sleeve of Oreos, and get ready to ride the snackwave. READ MORE


Susan Miller Deserves a Vacation

susan millerAs do we all. This interview with Susan Miller on The Cut about her demanding readers, her chronic illness, and her lack of vacation days is BASICALLY AMAZING. That is to say, people are horrible, she is amazing:

I don’t know why they think I should be working for free. I guess because I’ve been giving it to them for free for ten years. What they don’t know is that that was because Apple didn’t allow subscriptions. Now they do. I think the readers know this is the direction it’s going in, and they’re upset. Apple sent a text message saying I had to resubscribe. My eye is twitching just talking about it.

People see it as money-grubbing or taking advantage. But the free part costs me so much in editing. If I can’t make my money back on the app, I would have to charge for And it’s always in my mind that somebody is suffering and they can’t really afford it, so I want to give AstrologyZone away for free. The app is just me really trying to be sensible. Running the site is expensive. I’m not trying to be a multimillionaire. I’m not trying to be Oprah. I’m just trying to make enough to surprise them with new little things. When they’re buying my app, they’re buying it from Apple or Google, who take 30 percent, what’s left I share with the app developer Phunware, then the government takes half of that!

She goes on to say that all news anchors are Capricorns (My moon is in Capricorn, which is what saves me, I think, from being a Cancer with Sag rising), that she had to put $1200 on her AmEx recently to pay for medication, and that she has never had a vacation.

I’d assumed that much like Michelangelo didn’t do most of the actual painting in the Sistine Chapel, Susan Miller didn’t write all of her horoscopes. Not so, apparently!

Photo via ranjit


The Liberal Arts Are Not a Luxury: An ‘Excellent Sheep’ Responds to Deresiewicz


William Deresiewicz wants you to find your bliss. Yes, you, with the straight A’s and the 35 on your ACTs and the entourage of extracurricular activities, whose parents give your SAT tutor the good snacks instead of you. They might know that $350 an hour is too much to pay to raise your scores a few points, but college admissions are the mighty St. Lawrence, after all, and you’re a salmon.

Deresiewicz’s book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite, out this month, is an expansion of his viral 2008 essay in The American Scholar. It argues that the culture of achievement among those rich enough to pursue it single-mindedly precludes real learning and discovery, beginning as early as homework-laden kindergarten and continuing past Harvard graduation. These kids’ dogged pursuit of … something, writes Deresiewicz, isn’t totally their fault; the so-called American “meritocracy,” intended to make college a place for more than just gentlemen in straw boaters, has become an ultra-competitive admissions process that, instead of promoting true diversity, merely shifts the advantage toward those who can afford to start padding their applications at birth.

Deresiewicz would have the admissions offices, the parents, the students, hold it right there. He’d like to bring back awe and curiosity to the university, not to mention some sense of reading both broadly and deeply in order to become not only prepared for work, but also “good citizens.”

This prescription and its corollaries aren’t new: the educator and critic E. D. Hirsch, in his 1987 book Cultural Literacy, argued that all Americans should know certain things in order to participate in democracy. The philosopher Allan Bloom echoed the sentiment, somewhat more bitterly, in The Closing of the American Mind, published the same year. (Bloom makes frequent appearances in Excellent Sheep.)

My gut votes a straight-party ticket for the liberal arts, but I hear Deresiewicz’s critics when they ask what exactly it means that a college education should prepare citizens. READ MORE


Aspiring To Be An Effortlessly Cool Woman With $400 Shoes

4452005920_bdcc992d42_mEmily Gould continues to write essays that unearth all the feelings under our barely-conscious money behavior, i.e., essays that we wish she would have written for us. This one is an excerpt from that one book, Women In Clothes, which is an anthology filled with writing by women that focuses on “style and its deeper meanings.”

In the early spring of 2004, I was twenty-two and had just received my first tax refund. I didn’t have any money, but I was close to money all the time. At the slick corporate publishing offices on the Upper West Side where I worked, the profit-and-loss statements were for hundreds of thousands of dollars, which it was my job to calculate, and I fetched coffee for established authors and agents—daily interactions that reassured me that my modest circumstances were only temporary. The hazy future would deliver me a big payday, so there was no need to save. I spent every penny I earned, which was easy to do: rent took most of it, food pretty much covered the rest.

When I unexpectedly got a check in the mail from the federal government for $342, I went out to buy a large, rectangular, pale pink Marc by Marc Jacobs handbag.

I remember being 22 and really, really wanting to own things from Marc by Marc Jacobs, but the only thing I ever got from there was a pair of rain boots my mom bought me on a visit. They were $30ish dollars, a size too big, and they leak. READ MORE


It’s Not Easy Being Green, Except in Vermont Where It’s Mandatory

being-green-kermitThe largest city in Vermont is now powered entirely by green energy! The largest city in Vermont is under 50,000 people. Still, good news!

“We’re now in a position where we’re supplying Burlington residents with sources that are renewable,” said Ken Nolan, manager of power resources for Burlington Electric Department, earlier this month. “The prices are not tied to fossil fuels — they’re stable prices — and they provide us with the flexibility, from an environmental standpoint, to really react to any regulation or changes to environmental standards that come in the future.” … The Washington Electric Co-operative, which has about 11,000 customers across central and northern Vermont, also reached the 100 percent renewable milestone earlier this year. Both utilities acknowledge that when renewable sources aren’t readily available — if the wind isn’t blowing or water levels are low — they will purchase traditional fossil fuel-generated electricity. However, when the wind is strong and water levels are high more than enough electricity is generated and the surplus can be sold to other utilities. On average, they will be selling more than they buy.

Thanks to some kid with a clipboard who approached me when my defenses were down, my little family buys its electricity through Green Mountain Energy, which swears that the only power that comes to our apartment is clean, healthy, renewable energy from wind turbines. (Plenty of other providers out there, such as Arcadia, make the same promise.) Maybe our electricity is actually formed by the tiny hands of children, like the ones that enable the Snowpiercer engine, who knows, but we get to feel good about ourselves for no extra cost.


The True Value of One Banana (In A Second World Country Without Running Water)

Produce Store

When I accepted a position to teach English in Georgia, my life was ideal on paper. I had friends and a full time job in a city I didn’t mind, with a Chipotle right around the corner from my reasonably priced apartment. Everything was fairly good, but there was no sparkle. I refused to settle. I had a healthy savings account and the teaching position provided room, board, transportation, a monthly stipend, and the opportunity to gain teaching experience to the benefit of my career. I threw caution and reason to the wind and embarked on my adventure, fearless, naïve, and blissfully happy.

A week into the program, I found out that the same healthy father who dropped me off at the airport now needed heart surgery. Suddenly my new adventure meant nothing. My family and my home were on the other side of the globe, I was in a country where outgoing planes only left every other day, and total travel time was over 36 hours. What if I needed to go home immediately? Would I even make it? I felt helpless. Thrown into a new environment while processing emotions I had never experienced, I didn’t know what to say to my new host family, much less how to translate it into a new language. I no longer wanted to be on my grand adventure. I wanted to go home.

At the urging of my conscience and my family, though, I kept my commitment. Rather than dwell on my own emotions, I tried to focus on the realities of my new home. In my ignorance, I was surprised to learn that my host family was accustomed to living under electricity rations or going without water for days, even though the fountains in the tourist centers still flowed freely and the hotels illuminated main streets day and night. The fading term “second world country,” accurately defined my new home, a city on its way to establishing the infrastructure to support the lifestyle it had already built. READ MORE


Savvy Drinking: Is the Smart Buy the Best Value?

This Business Insider video (via Slate) points out that since cheap liquor is marked up more than pricier liquor at bars, it makes more sense to buy the expensive stuff. You’re spending more money but you’re getting a better value for your dollar.

It is true that knowing how much a draft is marked up (456%!?!) could really affect your ability to enjoy that glass of swill. (Sorry, beer.) But will you appreciate an expensive bottle of wine more because you feel like a savvy spender as well as a fancy-pants connoisseur? It probably depends on whether you enjoy expensive wine more than the regular stuff to begin with, and can afford it.

wine markup screenshot

Beer is not only cheaper than a glass of wine, usually, it’s also less of a rip-off. Now if only it tasted better.

Liquor markup screenshot

Bottom-shelf mixed drinks are as much of a rip off as draft beers. Good to know.