Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Free Spotify Subscription - Gilt Deal - Guest Post by Melanie

Welcome and thanks for joining me again after my hiatus!  In the past few months I've spent most of my spare time training for and running the NYC Marathon.  It's no excuse, but it is the reason I took a little break from writing. Now that the race is over and I am practically bedridden from runner's knee, it is time to blog again.  

To help me get going is Melanie, my childhood friend who loves deals and writing too.  We used to hang and talk free stuff when she lived in NYC, but she (sadly) moved to CA a few months ago.  She recently found a great national Free Spotify Gilt City deal, which I love because anyone in the US can have access to it. And really, what is a better way to connect friends on opposite coasts than a good deal?

Thank you for finding this deal, and for writing this post, Melanie!

Hello World of Alana’s blog readers!!

It’s truly a pleasure guest writing from the west coast!  Having transplanted to San Francisco six months ago, I've experienced a plethora of firsts, such as:

  • Camping
  • Cruising down the 101
  • Cranking

Another (long overdue) first: Spotify Premium.  I snagged a 60-day trial membership and can’t believe I hadn't succumbed sooner to the $9.99/month price point.

That's right, boys & girls, FREE!
Let’s revisit the firsts with rhythmic details:

  • Camping (on a crystal clear lake with my fly best friend while beats drop against a backdrop of constellations)
  • Cruising down the 101 (to motown tunes with the windows wound all the way down)
  • NOT Cranking (but staying up all night to get lucky)

Studies have shown that swinging and/or singing along to songs increases the amount of dopamine in your brain.  I could go on for eons about magical music moments… the word itself originates from “mousa,” Greek for “muse.”  But instead let’s turn to trusty Facebook for evidentiary support.  Because you know it’s real if it’s on Facebook.

Exhibit A: Social media snapshot of music's collaborative capabilities
On that note, a feature I’m a huge fan of is sharing songs via Spotify with Facebook (and for real) friends.  Jim Croce crooned it best, “Every time I tried to tell you the words just came out wrong.  So I’ll have to say I love you in a song.”  So share the love, share your playlists, write a witty ditty about a tune - the world is your auditory oyster.

This Gilt City deal is good from now until December 14 so get it (and drop it) while it’s hot.
*Normally a Spotify Premium account is free for one month.  With this deal, it is free for two months.

Alana and me at our high school reunion over Thanksgiving.  Ten years later,  I think we accessorize better.  But probably because our younger sisters dressed us.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Free DailyCandy and Canon Powershot: Be Ready in a Flash Event

Here's a tip.  Sign up for any free DailyCandy event that you can before they fill up.  They rock.  Roofdeck of the Hotel on Rivington, sunset views of the entire city, refreshing cocktails, and tips and tricks for looking your best in a flash, or in other words, when the need to take a selfie arises. It was like this event was designed just for me.  
Me, Stefanie, Patricia, and Christine after a round(s) of drinks and makeovers
 The DailyCandy and Canon PowerShot "Be Ready in a Flash" night consisted of all the necessities needed to look your best for the camera: a hair braiding bar, manicures, makeovers, a camera case decorating station, prizes, raffles, a dj, and drinks.  The event staff were all friendly and engaging, the crowd was in good spirits (we even made a few new friends), and it was the perfect girls night out to help break up the work week a bit. Not bad for a Tuesday night!

Getting to do arts and crafts while drinking a delicious watermelon basil cocktail=perfection.

Having my hair braided at the braid and bun bar
The only criticism I have about this event was that we didn't learn how to actually USE the Canon Powershot.  It would have been nice to practice with some manual settings and find how to take the best sunset shots.  

I just think this is funny. What a horrible photo, no thanks to the iPhone 4S!
 But, when in doubt, I had my trusty TruHDR app plus some Instagram filters to give me the look I was going for.  
Yes, this is a heavily manipulated photo on my iPhone, but atleast I did it in a flash ;)
What are some of your photo tips when you're in a hurry? Any awesome photo apps we should know about?

Read my other post about DailyCandy events in my Top Ten list.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Shen Tao Trampoline Yoga- Groupon Deal

My discovery of Shen Tao  started with a Groupon over a year ago. Three rounds of deals later, it remains one of my favorite places in the city.  Tucked away in a high rise in Flatiron, Shen Tao is not just a yoga studio; it is a movement space for dancers, gymnasts, and athletes.  The room is impeccable and serene, and filled with all types of interesting equipment- ladders, trampolines, swivel stands, calf stretchers, and something I call a “pain stick” that stretches the feet. 

The ladders and equipment are designed and built by owner Bill Hedberg

Unlike a vinyasa or hatha style yoga, trampoline yoga is more of a contemporary movement class that combines a few different techniques: yoga on an individual sized trampoline, physical therapy, ladder stretching, and meditation.  At the beginning of a session, each person is given the chance to talk about what they would like to focus on for the day- relaxing, soreness in a certain area, bouncing on the trampolines, etc.  I was especially grateful during half marathon training when I had knee problems.  The instructors always make sure they address everything, and they will even stay after class if you want extra attention.  
The range of motion that the trampoline allows is greater than if you were to do poses on a mat, so you get a way better stretch.

The dialogue during class is not just about the movement and instruction- there is also talk of letting go, getting out of your head, and finding the connection (or separation) between body and mind.   It’s an excellent way to de-stress during a long week, and I always feel a stronger sense of balance, both mentally and physically, when I leave. 

Serenity after class.  Photo credit thanks to fellow running buddy Alex, who loves trampoline yoga too!

I was going to post a photo of myself jumping, but here is something better. Animals jumping on trampolines. YOU ARE WELCOME.

Read about my other favorite yoga deals: Bikram Herald Squaremang'Oh Yoga

Sunday, June 16, 2013

New York Public Library- Free eBook Downloads

Ok, so this is not a "daily deal" but it is a deal because it is free.  I love to read, and I buy books for my Kindle pretty frequently.  It seems like every week I'm spending $10 or more on books that I only read once, because I never, EVER read a book twice.  So it's a waste.
Well, thank you Stefanie and Patricia for pointing this out to me- you can rent books on your Kindle (or whatever ebook you choose) from the library for free.
The Kips Bay branch, just steps from my apartment
I originally had plans to check out the New York Public Library because it's where Carrie and Big were supposed to get married.  It hadn't really occurred to me that the libary has a much more practical use-duh.
So here's the deal: if you live, work, or attend school in New York, you can easily sign up online, then head to one of their 80+ branches to validate your account and get a physical card.  Then voila, you are ready to rent books.  WHY DIDN'T I THINK OF THIS SOONER.
Never felt more like a New Yorker than when I finally got my own library card
The ebook website is pretty robust; there are many search features, like search by title, bestseller, most popular, available for immediate download, etc.  Also, you can check out ebooks from 1-3 weeks at a time, your choice.  Some of the titles I was searching for had long waitlists (I put myself on the hold list for Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg- I'm number 598 out of 69 available copies, all of which are checked out).  So I searched through the available bestsellers and found The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I was pretty pumped- a friend had recommended it so I already had it on my summer reading list.

Speaking of which, what are your summer must reads? I'm taking 2 weeks off this summer and most of them will be spent sitting on a beach or traveling, so please help a girl out and comment with suggestions :)
This is not part of the NYPL, but it is amazing and it makes me happy. Little Free Library on the East River.  Borrow a book or donate a book, on the honor system!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Spray Tan at Brazil Bronze Bar- Groupon Deal

Every year, right around May, I sit in the sun for the first hot day of the season and get a stupid and oddly shaped sunburn.  Then I go to the Cape for Memorial Day and  I get even more sunburned. It stays with me all summer. This year has been no different- I have awful lines on my legs already.  But I have learned my lesson.  Not how to put sunscreen on correctly, rather, how to cover up an attrocious sunburn.  I got a Groupon for spray tanning
Exhibits A and B 
Having never gone spray tanning  before,  I did a fair amount of research before buying this deal.   I chose Brazil Bronze Bar because their ingredients are organic, and they had great reviews online.  It was a little hard to make an appointment by phone, but they recently put their entire reservation system online for easy scheduling.

See what I mean about the ambience?
I walked into their enchanting little studio in SoHo and took it all in: curtain covered rooms, fresh flowers, a relaxing, romantic color scheme, and all of their accolades hanging on the walls.  Everywhere I looked, there were instructions on how to care for your spray tan. I was reassured and hopeful that I would not walk out of there bright orange. 
Loved seeing all the magazines that this studio has been featured in
Claudia was my spray tanner, and she was professional and speedy.  After a consultation about my ideal color- light bronze- she showed me the positions to stand in, and sprayed.  The spray took about 3-5 minutes total, and then another 5 minutes in front of a large fan to dry my tan.  Definitely not as awkward as I was imagining.    

Day 1 of the tan- my sister says "Jersey Shore cast member" but I say beach glow
My skin looked perfect for about 5 days before it started fading.  I was wishing it would last longer, but it totally got the job done.   No idiotic tan lines for me, and even though it was about 50 degrees on Cape Cod and I wore sweatpants the whole time, I know I atleast looked like I had a nice beach glow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gilt City UNIQLO Free AIRism Product

 UNIQLO is probably one of my favorite stores in the city.  The very first time I went, I almost had a seizure from the bright lights, maze of never-ending floors and rooms, and vast options of contemporary casual wear.  But I soon got over it and now visit my Herald Square location on 34th St and Broadway almost weekly.  I think I have the same pair of shorts in 3 colors.

I saw this Gilt City deal  for a free AIRism product drop on Facebook before I checked my email, so I was poised to click once it came through- I know anything free goes fast.  Well this went so fast that after I signed up, I emailed my roommate and she was waitlisted not even 5 minutes later.
Everything was prepackaged, but there were sample shirts out so you could compare shapes/sizes.
The AIRism product line is UNIQLO’s “inner wear that stays dry” collection.  Think lots of different undershirts in all cuts and colors.  Normally $12.90, these are on sale this week for $9.90 (but free for me!).  I don’t normally pay that much for an undershirt (Forever 21 has them for $3) and UNIQLO is not typically known for overcharging, so I gathered that it was high quality.
UNIQLO was on their game- they even had signs out for the Gilt City deal.
  I selected a white cami- you can never have too many- which I layered under today's outfit.  I have to say, it is probably one of the yummiest, softest materials I have ever felt.  It must be the cupro material- which I learned is a “cellulose fiber made from recovered cotton waster” (yay for recycling?).  I was comfortable all day- from my freezing cold office to walking around in 80 degree heatstroke weather during lunch.
"Put it on. Feel cool. Stay refreshed." It's true, I felt cool as a cucumber all day.
I never ever would have bought this shirt on my own- the undergarment section of UNIQLO is just too overwhelming and I’m usually in there to raid their stretch pant selection.   But I am rethinking this- camis in any color are good to have, and this just felt so nice on my skin without being too clingy or too tight or too loose.  Thanks Gilt City for the free threads!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shake Rattle and Roll Piano Bar LivingSocial

The girls and I had planned this LivingSocial deal for Shake Rattle and Roll Piano Bar months in advance.  We’re from Boston, where we are used to the dueling piano bars like Howl at the Moon and the now defunct Jake Ivorys.  We needed a night of belting out some Elton John and strong drinks, preferably in buckets.

This place is not what we were expecting, but we were pleasantly surprised.  The show took place in the tiny basement of Soho Italian eatery, Brick NYC.  The room held the capacity of about 100, which is probably why we needed to wait months before securing a spot at the show.  The actual booking process was very smooth, and we were greeted and seated at our reserved table in a professional manner (there was limited standing/dancing space- rather, seats and tables).  It was nice to have table service and we were seated front and center.

Niki, Dianna, and Kate ready to shake rattle and roll.
The piano duelers walked around beforehand and talked to everyone at the show.  We chatted a bit about Boston, because it was the horrible week of the Boston Marathon bombings.  We were eager to hear a little Sweet Caroline that night.

This was my request. Dedication to Boston!
The show was decent- both guys were very talented.  In the beginning, they did a good job of engaging the audience and weaving all of the soundbites we gave them before the show into their bit.  I wasn't a huge fan of the pay to play system.  We were not in the mindset of shelling out $20 for a tune, however, many other people were happy to do it and there was a long row of $10's and $20s on each piano.

These dudes knew how to work a keyboard
As the night went on, the focus definitely shifted towards anyone with a large group, including bachelorette parties. There were drinking games and audience participation.  Some sing-alongs.
My absolute favorite part was when they played Sweet Caroline in honor of Boston without us having to officially pay for request it.  

One of the lucky brides got to help him play his harmonica
It was a fun night, but I think I would definitely recommend this activity to anyone looking for a large group outing for a special occasion- birthday, bachelorette, etc.  Those who were the loudest/drunkest were often rewarded with shots.  My group of 4 tried to keep up, but let's be honest, who can really compete with bachelorette parties, ever?