Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buying New Construction in NYC

There things that we love with our new apartment: large windows, new appliances, new bathrooms and a new kitchen, new neighbors and not having to deal with an entrenched condo board.

There are things that we would rather not have had to deal with: paying the Seller's legal fees, paying for all the seemingly unfairly high costs of the  transfer such as the NY State and NY City real estate taxes and real estate transfer taxes, and the high title insurance costs.  It does seem unfair that the buyer covers these costs, but we've already paid them and there isn't much that we can do.  Does the buyer always pay the Seller's legal bills for condo transfers?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reducing Clutter - bookswaps, craigslist, and freecycle

I never thought that think I have too many books but I do.  I've started posted skimming through the unread books and posting them on online bookswaps.  My two main sites are and  

I've noticed that I tend to request more books from  but my books are more often requested from  Paperbackswap gives you points for each referral that you bring to the group. You get two credits per new recruit.  It does not offer additional points for each book that you list.  In contrast, bookmooch offers 1/10th of a point for each book that you list but does not offer any referral points.

Bookmooch seems to be stricter about its wishlist and inventory. You must send books that are posted in your inventory and you must request the books on your wishlist that become available.   Paperbackswap isn't as strict about these items, but it is stricter about sending the books within a short period and a fuller description of requestor restrictions and the way that the books are packed, listed and sent.

I love using both groups - it makes it possible to recycle books that I'd like to read once and don't have space to keep in the apartment.  I can also request books and have them sent to friends and family members in the US.   Bookmooch has the added advantage of having a global reach - it allows you to request books from people outside the US and you can opt to send the books outside the US for a greater number of points.  Check both sites out!

Craigslist is a good way to sell used items within your neighborhood.    Be careful about scheduling appointments and giving out personal details - some people have used fake postings to lure victims out with cash and then robbed or mugged them.  

If you don't have time or the patience to sell the items, you can choose to give away things through the different Yahoo freecycle groups.   It's a great site and I've benefited from some generous posters/freecyclers.  We've gotten a new paper shredder, blender, a baby car seat, and numerous books (law, fiction, mysteries, etc.)

Now that we've moved to Brooklyn, we noticed that people leave items on their stoop for neighbors to take.   Just while having coffee on 9th Street and 6th Avenue, a man brought down a microwave and toaster and put them on his stoop.  Less than five minutes later, a woman put the toaster on top of her stroller and took it home!  They bypass the hassle of posting and scheduling pickups on freecycle and still share with the neighbors.  

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Mighty Queens of Freeville - October's First Look Book Club at Barnes & Noble

I am so excited! I just got my free advance reading copy of "The Mighty Queens of Freeville" by Amy Dickinson through the Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club.  

I discovered the First Look Book Club last year when I was exploring the Barnes & Noble website.  Every few months or so, they host these First Look Book Clubs.   The membership is not set but they do make advance announcements to previous members alerting us to sign up at noon on a particular day. Then you email your desire to join and your address which you must do quickly because they run out of slots fast.  If you're among the lucky ones, you get a confirmatory email and your book arrives in a few days!

I'd joined the discussions for "The House at Riverton" by Kate Morton and "The Sister" by Poppy Adams.  I loved Riverton, it reminded me of Rebecca and of Atonement - a Gothic sort of suspense centered around an old aristocratic family and an ancient home in England.  I wouldn't have found or read the book ordinarily, but it was a wonderful escape. 

I'm very excited about this new book - it's more along the lines of something that I would have found myself.   I've never read Amy Dickinson's column "Ask Amy" or heard her on NPR's "Talk of the Nation" but the first chapter is reminiscent of Fannie Flagg.  

Here's the blurb on the back of the book:

"Five years ago, after an exhaustive nationwide search, the Chicago Tribune announced Amy Dickinson as the next Ann Landers. They wanted a contemporary voice and they found it.  Bracingly witty and candid, Amy is not your mother's advice columnist.  Readers love her for her brutal honesty, her small-town values, and the fact that her motto is "I make mistakes so you don't have to."  Her advice column, "Ask Amy," appears daily in more than 150 newspapers nationwide, read by more than 22 million people.

In The Mighty Queens of Freeville, Amy Dickinson takes those mistakes and spins them into a remarkable story. This is the tale of Amy and her daughter and the women in her family who helped raise them."

More to come!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Scoping out the new neighborhood - South Slope

We just moved from the Upper East Side.   While I wait for the "punchlist supervisor" to drop by to discuss the remaining items that need to be done in our apartment, here are the things that I'd like to find in our new neighborhood and small tasks to do:

  1. Change address with the local library.
  2. Find a good Asian food store with miso, vegetables, chinese and japanese spices.
  3. Find a good gym.
  4. Explore Prospect Park or the Brooklyn Botanical Garden - one of the reasons that we moved to this neighborhood.
  5. Find a good bakery for the occasional treats.
  6. Find a nearby hardware store, drugstore, grocery store, laundry, and coffee shop.
  7. Arrange to have ConEd change my address.
  8. Arrange for cable, internet and possibly phone service.  See if I get cable or wireless internet for free!
  9. Have extra keys made.
  10. Change address with all banks, 401(k), employer, DMV, and IRS.
  11. Make a working to do list.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Moving Checklist

Quick list before moving:
  1. Contact the Post Office.  If you know your move date, set up your mail forwarding about 10 days or 2 weeks before your move.  Also put mail on hold to cover the gap from your mail forwarding request to the time it begins.   Once the mail forwarding starts, the mail hold will be lifted.  The easiest way is to do all of this is online (
  2. Change the addresses on record with your banks, 401(k) funds, employer, credit cards, mutual fund companies, and insurance companies.
  3. Sell unwanted items on craigslist.
  4. Donate unwanted items to Goodwill. Don't forget the receipt to claim the tax donation.
  5. Or give away items through
  6. Return library books. Donate unwanted books to your local library.
  7. Put your and accounts on vacation hold and change your address on record.
  8. Shred confidential financial documents.
Moving Day:
  1. Notify utilities of your change of address either to terminate service or transfer service. Be sure to give them your new address so they can send checks to cover the balance owed to you.
  2. Have cash for movers.
  3. Carry your valuables, important papers, checks, etc. 
  4. Take pictures of your apartment as you're moving out to be able to prove that you left the apartment in good condition and claim your security deposit.  
Soon after moving: 
  1. Return the cable box and modem, etc. to your old provider to claim your deposit.
  2. Change your email signature to reflect your new address and phone number.
  3. Notify contacts of your new address and phone number.
  4. Inform the DMV of your new address.  You can do this in person, over the phone (NYC residents call (212) 645-5550 or (718) 966-6155 from 8 am to 4 pm) or by mail using the form MV-232 (
  5. If you're in the US on a visa, file the required documentation to immigration authorities notifying them of your new address within 10 days of the move.  
  6. If you're a NY State attorney, you have to notify the Attorney Registration Unit of Office of Court Administration, either by email ( or by fax (212) 428-2804 or by mail to OCA - Attorney Registration, P.O. Box 2806, Church Street Station, New York, NY 10008.  Their phone number is (212) 428-2800, you should confirm that the address change took effect about 6 weeks after giving notice.
  7. Follow up with your landlord for your security deposit. Use regular mail or certified mail to be able to prove that you made a legal demand.
  8. Give away old boxes through
  9. Inform the library of your new address.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I love about the Upper East Side

I've lived in the Upper East Side ever since I moved to New York City in 2005.   When  I first moved to NYC,  everything was booming and rent was steep and getting steeper.  My studio went from $2,450 to $3,000 in a year.  I moved from the doorman elevator building with a gym that was just at 15 minute walk to the GM Building to a fifth floor walkup in the mid-80s between First and York Avenues for $2,200.   The new neighborhood was a very brisk 45 minute walk from work and an hour on the M31.  With beautiful weather, I would walk through Central Park to be at my office right on the corner of the Park.

If you visit the E. 80s, I recommend that you:
  1. Drop by Glasier's Bake Shop on First Avenue between E. 87 and E. 88th Streets.   Their black and white cookies are famous and have been reviewed by the New York Sun, New York Magazine, the NY Post, all in the two years that I lived in the area.  But while the black and white cookies are excellent,  I love the scones, brownies, and zucchini bread.  When my husband moved in, he would drop by Glasier's almost every Friday - until we resolved to stick to our diets!
  2. Carl Shurtz Park on East End Avenue and E. 86th Street, right by the East River.  The gardens are small and beautiful.  It's deeply relaxing to just walk and smell the salt water.  There are films, music festivals, Christmas caroling, and art fairs.  
  3. Central Park - no need to say anything else!
  4. Sushi of Gari - the tasting sushi is a special treat but quite expensive at $150 for 10 pieces. 
  5. Agata and Valentina - First Avenue and E. 79th Street for the prepared foods!  A good place to pick up food before heading to Carl Shurtz Park or Central Park for a picnic.
  6. Bikram NYC - - on E. 83rd Avenue and Third Avenue.  
  7. Book Cellar at the Webster Branch of the New York Public Library - they sell used books and the proceeds go to the library fund. They have an excellent selection of fiction, cook books, etc.  
  8. Fruit carts - all over the UES.  Particularly good deals on the ones on E. 86th Street and along Third Avenue.
  9. King's Carriage House - fixed price menus for lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. The lunch is a bargain at about $20.  It's a small townhouse with charm, quiet, and excellent food.  E. 82nd Street between Second and Third Avenues.
  10. Eli's - for the prepared foods and extremely fresh produce, more expensive than Agata & Valentina, but closer to Central Park.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Starting Bikram Yoga

A good friend of mine swears by Bikram Yoga and when I'd visited her in Manila, she'd tried to get me to join her for a class.   Over a year later, I finally signed up for the 30 day special at Bikram Yoga NYC (  $30 for 30 days of unlimited yoga.  A single class is usually $23, so this seemed like an amazing deal!

Before my first class, I even toyed with the idea of trying the 30 day challenge. Do a class a day for 30 days and you get your name written on their wall, a free week of class, 2 free guest passes, a T-shirt and 10% off your purchase of a program or yoga gear.  

My first class was harder than I thought possible.  They advise you not to eat 2 hours before the class. I drank plenty of water, ate my Jenny Craig lunch 3 hours before class, got there 30 minutes early but I couldn't last.  I was dizzy, nauseous, and I ended up being sick twice during class.   Oddly enough, I still felt better after having tried it.  

So two weeks later, I've learned to eat much less before class, manage the heat better, and  battle dizziness and nausea. I feel slimmer, fitter and stronger.  

I had a three day streak of skipping class, sleeping late,  and eating far too much again.  I tried to break it yesterday with the afternoon class and couldn't keep up.  I'm getting ready for another class today - hoping to do better.