Under cabinet plug-in lighting review

6355927701_fd1a2f7031_z_dPhoto credit: 148 Straith Street Staunton, VA 24401 (Flickr)

It is truly amazing how much of a difference under cabinet lighting can transform the ambiance and functionality of a space. If I had known this, I would have invested in under cabinet lighting a long time ago, even though I don’t own the place. I recently installed under cabinet lighting and cannot figure out how I ever lived without it. The area is so dark without it that I am certain I left the house with way too much make-up on way too many times. There are probably a lot more, and a lot better options available if you can hardwire the lighting, but I am so thrilled to be able to say that renters can also enjoy this upgrade because there are fixtures that you can plug into the wall.

My first purchase of this type of lighting was based on convenience. These lights are long, skinny, and bulky so I didn’t think it was a great idea to have them shipped in. I just got the best looking one from one of the big box hardware chains and thought I’d be able to enjoy the new lighting that evening. I was wrong.

As I unpackaged them and plugged them in, I realized to my great disappointment that the lights were the “wrong color.” They were so pee yellow (i.e., “too warm”) that I had to go back to the store immediately and return them. It takes at least ten times longer to return things at that store than to buy them so I usually try to avoid that, but apparently there is a line and they had crossed it.

After that return experience I spent days researching plug-in lighting to minimize the odds of repeat disappointment. Picking the right lighting is so much more complicated than just finding a fixture that physically fits into the space you are trying to light. I’ve listed all the criteria that went into my decision and why these factors matter, and include links at the end of my top two picks.

While the fixtures cost more than I originally wanted to spend, I am very happy with the outcome. And honestly, for the difference that this simple tweak makes every single day, it was money well spent. It seems like such a minor change, but the benefit is huge.

Kelvins

This is the reason I jumped down this rabbit hole, so this is the first consideration. The Kelvin (K) rating indicates how cool or warm the light is. A higher number means the light renders cooler, while a lower number means the light will be warmer. Some fixtures allow you to adjust the warmth with a built in switch, which is nice if you want to be able to change the ambiance of a room, or if you’re not sure which setting you’ll like. But it is surprisingly difficult to find a decent color (hue?) of light these days and not all fixtures render light equally well, so please do not stop reading here.

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

This number indicates how similar the light color produced by the fixture is to incandescent light. A higher number indicates better color rendering. The highest I’ve seen is 93. At this point, I wouldn’t want anything less than 90.

Diffuser

You want there to be a diffuser on the light fixture that distributes the light produced by individual bulbs and reduces “hot spots” unless you want to be able to see the light emitting from each bulb individually. A diffuser will allow the fixture to produce more even light distribution. Not all diffusers are created equal.

Spacing

I like the look of continuous light that makes a counter glow evenly along its length. I do not like it when you can tell by the glow or reflection off counters exactly how long a fixture is not. To avoid dark zones, my strategy was to light as much of the linear under cabinet length as possible rather than purchasing just one light per cabinet or the minimum fixtures to provide adequate lighting for the space. Cramming in several fixtures may provide more than enough light, but the lighting will be even, if that makes sense, rather than in spotlit zones separated by darkness. I am not sure how to determine the maximum distance between fixtures that will provide lighting that looks continuous other than trial and error.

Fixture color

Currently I have seen white, black, and bronze, although it should be possible to customize the color of the fixture by painting it. When painting you always want to do sufficient surface preparation so the paint adheres properly. I would not want to pick white unless the fixture would not be visible from any viewing direction, or the surrounding colors are in fact true white. I just don’t like the look of bright true white (which is what they always seem to use for electrical equipment) against a white that is not true white because it makes the off white white look dirty and/or becomes an unintended focal point because it is so much brighter than everything else around it.

Hard wire vs. plug-in

If you can hard-wire, this will be the cleanest installation and avoid cables running everywhere. If hard wiring is not an option, there are fixtures designed to plug into an electrical outlet. Two strong candidate plug-in brands are GetInLight and Dewenwil on Amazon.

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Block heel booties for small feet

LEFT

Eric Michael Patricia

Main Image - BP. Lance Block Heel Bootie (Women)

BP. Lance

Naturalizer Westing Boot

Naturalizer Westing

The BP. Lance looks like an updated version of the blogger favorite BP. Trolley with a slightly taller and narrower stacked heel and a more flattering boot shaft that dips slightly at the front for a leg-lengthening effect.

Years ago, however, I tried on an Aquatalia bootie that was super flattering and comfortable without a front dip. It was straight throughout the boot shaft, which ended a couple inches above the ankle, and rather wide at the opening. This style was so chic and timeless, but I didn’t purchase, and I’ve been on the lookout for this or a similar style ever since. Enter the Eric Michael Patricia (top photo) and Naturalizer Westing (last photo), which are the closest I’ve found this season to that style.

You have to be careful with this type of style though. The boot shaft ends higher up the leg than a true ankle bootie and can visually shorten already short legs, but with cropped pants trending, I really like the look of taller booties paired with slightly cropped pants in monochromatic colors (like black boots with black pants) and find that a monochromatic color scheme can work to visually elongate the leg even though there is a break in the silhouette.

I like the edgier style of the Eric Michael shoe, but the Naturalizer Westing is very classic, and Naturalizer has really stepped up its game lately, consistently striking the right balance between style and comfort at very reasonable price points.

Best wireless headphones, according to a woman!

https://assets.bose.com/content/dam/Bose_DAM/Web/consumer_electronics/global/products/headphones/qc35_ii/images/qc35_ii_product_page_google_SC_01.psd/jcr:content/renditions/cq5dam.web.1920.1920.png

I’ve churned through many reviews on wireless headphones lately not wanting to miss out on a good Black Friday deal and will attempt to summarize here what I’ve found. I’m not an audiophile. I am a woman just trying to listen to good quality sound and sometimes block out noise. Here’s a female perspective on what appears to be an extremely male dominated consumer niche.

Seriously. Out of the dozens of reviews I’ve read and watched, only one reviewer was female. If you look at product images for older versions of what most people consider top of the line consumer headphones, you’d think that only men listen to music. At least the marketing of the latest models from these brands include photos like the one above from Bose of their QuietComfort 35 II’s.

As a petite woman, I’ve historically been uninspired by over-the-ear headphone technology because these headphones have been so freaking huge that only gamers and hardcore nerds could pull off that look, and they were only pulling it off because they didn’t care what it looked like.

Now there are more color options, different silhouettes and sizes to choose from, and enticing technological advances. The industry seems to acknowledge that women exist now – barely. There certainly is more room to cater to women, in my opinion.

Fashion bloggers’ pick

In my research I found that the FRENDS headphone was a popular choice for fashion bloggers. They come in on-trend colors like white and rose gold (see photo below), photograph well, seem to flatter the female face better than the top-of-the-line go-to brands, and are wireless. They aren’t readily available to try in a brick and mortar store here though and I assumed the sound quality wasn’t going to be anywhere near Bose or competitors in their tier. They also don’t appear to be noise cancelling (please correct me if I’m wrong), which makes them fairly pricey at over $200.

wireless-detail-rosegold-white

FRENDS headphones

Under $100

I spend way too much time on J.Crew’s website so I was peripherally aware of the Urbanears brand because they carried one of their models fairly recently. The Urbanears Plattan II looks great, is wireless, and is much more affordable than top-of-the-line models. Some reviewers thought they were not as durable as expected over the long haul. I couldn’t find the Plattan II for sale in the US anywhere, but Nordstrom carries the similar Plattan ADV. The fabric headband is removable and machine washable, and you get 14 hours of battery life in a charge. They come in a lot of colors and seem smaller and sleeker than most other options. I can see why J.Crew chose to carry these, and while they no longer do, they are conveniently available at Nordstrom in six fun colors.

Image result for urbanear plattan adv

Main Image - Urbanears 'Plattan ADV Wireless' Bluetooth® On-Ear Headphones

Most Affordable and Best Minimalist: Urbanear Plattan ADV

Coolest style

The award for coolest looking headphone goes to the Marshall Major II. It looks like something Ron Burgundy would wear if he were a radio DJ instead of an anchorman. In other words, the overall look including the brown colorway and faux leather finishes reminds me of the 70s in the best way. I want to buy these just to wear as a headband. They also look smaller than leading headphone brands’ models, but still over-the-ear (possibly actually on ear, not sure), and they come in brown (my favorite), white, and black. I wish I could comment on sound quality but all I know for sure is that they’re not noise cancelling. Best Buy has these on sale right now for under $100.

Major II
Main Image - Marshall Major II Bluetooth® Headphones
Coolest style: Marshall Major II

Most comfortable

The Sony XB950N1 were just next to the Sony WH-1000X mk2’s at Best Buy that I went there specifically to try so I gave these a try as well. These seemed a little lighter and definitely a lot more comfortable (less squeeze) than the Sony WH-1000X mk2. I thought they were even more comfortable than the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Unfortunately the sound is extremely bass heavy (“Extra Bass” is technically part of this product’s name, great if that is what you’re looking for), doesn’t have the cool swipe features (see below) or the longer battery life and wireless range of the Sony WH-1000X mk2’s and the thick earphone padding makes you look too much like Maz Kanata from Star Wars. There are a few different color options and they cost significantly less than the Sony WH-1000X mk2. This would be a good choice for someone that prioritizes comfort and/or wants good audio quality and noise cancelling in a wireless unit but does not want to shell out for pricier models.

From here on out, the headphones will make you look like Maz Kanata if you are petite. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a women’s fit option though for these higher end models? Partnerships with artists like Michael De Feo to give these utilitarian devices some pizazz? Why not. Life is short. Flowers on everything.

Image result for sony xb 950n1Sony - XB950N1 Extra Bass Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones - Titanium - Angle_Zoom
Most comfortable: Sony XB950N1 in Titanium (could not find any images of women wearing these, is that a bad sign?)

Best audio quality

I thought the Bose QuietComfort 35 II’s had better audio quality than the Sony WH-1000X mk2’s. The latter just had too much bass out of the box (more on this later). The QC35’s were also lighter and more comfortable than the Sony WH-1000X mk2, and reviewers noted how spacious the interior ear pad is such that they are comfortable to wear over extended periods of time without your ears heating up or sweating. But they only come in two colors, black and silver, and I doubt the shape of these headphones has changed much in the last decade. Bose also makes two other wireless noise cancelling models that are smaller in size, the SoundLink around ear wireless headphones II and the on-ear wireless headphones, but I thought the QC 35’s were the most comfortable. The only major difference I saw between the 35 II and the older 35 version was that the 35 II has a dedicated Google Assistant button. At fairly similar price points, one could go either way.

https://assets.bose.com/content/dam/Bose_DAM/Web/consumer_electronics/global/products/headphones/qc35_ii/images/qc35_ii_product_page_google_SC_01.psd/jcr:content/renditions/cq5dam.web.1920.1920.pngBest sound: Bose QuietComfort 35 and 35 II

Best noise cancelling

Reviewers seemed to agree that the Sony WH-1000X mkII had better noise cancelling than the Bose QC 35 or 35 II. The Sony WH-1000X mkII also has a cool feature where you can place your hand on the earphone and ambient sound is mic’d in so you can have a conversation or hear what’s going on around you without removing your headphones. There is also an ambient noise feature that you can enable to hear what’s going on around you while wearing the headphones. Rather than cumbersome buttons, one can control volume and playlist with light swipes on the earphone. These Sony’s also have longer battery life and wireless range than the QC 35 series. The sound is bass heavy, but equalizer settings can be adjusted in an app. Downsides include these are immediately noticeably heavier than the QC35 series, initially less comfortable, and have less spacious ear pads such that some reviewers’ ears touched the inside of the ear pad and one reviewer noted ear sweating after extended use.

Image result for sony 1000x mk2
Best noise cancelling: Sony WH-1000X mk2

Side by side comparison summary
Bose QC 35/35 II v Sony WH-1000X mk2

Weight: Bose > Sony
Comfort: Bose > Sony
Sound: Bose > Sony
Noise cancelling: Sony > Bose (based on others’ reviews, both seem very good)
Aesthetics: Sony > Bose (you may disagree? please let me know below)
Features: Sony > Bose (that swipe technology though)
Battery life: Sony > Bose
Wireless range: Sony > Bose
Durability: = (I am convinced that both are equally well made, despite reviewers reporting a headband cracking problem on the older Sony 1000X)
Price: Sony > Bose (they are priced the same retail, but the Sony apparently goes on sale while I do not expect the 35 II to go on sale any time soon, though if you opt for the older 35 model it is only about a $30 price difference between the 35 and mk2 right now with both on sale for Black Friday)

Sony also makes the smaller profile h.ear on 2 Mini Wireless which comes in a wider range of colors. It can’t stand up to the WH-1000X mk2 in terms of overall specs, but does cost a lot less. There’s not much in the way of reviews or attention online for these, and they seem to be heavily geared towards women. Sony’s website says “Try them with your favorite outfit” and “The headband adapts to fit your head shape and hair style, helping you look your best.” Just based on stock product images alone, I actually think the mk2’s look better on the female Sony models than the h.ear on 2 Mini Wireless, but maybe in person it’s the opposite.

Downside for all of these

I think with wireless technology an industry wide issue is that the battery WILL eventually not be able to hold a charge and cannot be replaced easily. Some reviewers said Bose will replace the battery on the QC 35 for somewhere between two and three hundred dollars, not far from the price of a new pair of headphones. I’m not sure about Sony (TechRadar says Sony does not offer battery replacement on the 1000X so it seems reasonable to assume the same is true for the 1000X mk2) or the other brands covered here, but think it’s reasonable to assume that these are all unfortunately rather disposable because of this design issue. I believe the Bose QC 25 and earlier run on standard AAA (or AA?) batteries that are easily replaced (especially in an airport or something) rather than the lithium ion batteries that all the latest wireless models most likely employ. Unfortunately the Bose QC 25 and earlier are not wireless.

Best headphone reviews online

And the award for Best Headphone Reviews goes to Jimmy at JimsReviewRoom on YouTube. He’s reviewed all of the best headphones on the market right now, and also does side by side comparison reviews like this one (Bose QC 35 II vs Sony WH-1000X). Beautifully produced and packed with useful analysis that a layperson can understand, his channel was the single most useful resource for deciding where to invest in headphones.

Black Friday 2017 deals

Best Buy seems to be leading the pack on pricing for electronics and tech, as usual, with Amazon competitively price matching in real time.

Which headphones do you use?

J.Crew picks, Fall 17

Turtleneck tunic sweatshirt

Turtleneck tunic sweatshirt

Things seem to be on an upswing at J.Crew. I haven’t seen any neon stripes, wacky t-shirt graphics, or chunky jewelry in a while, and their pants and jeans seem to have received a major tailoring overhaul. This is good news since my Minnies from like 2009 have seen better days and seem to shrink a little with every machine wash and dry. Now there are finally several machine washable pant options in very promising cuts.

I recently tried the New easy pant. I loved the concept of tailored work slack in the front and elastic waist in the back. An elastic waist is so much more comfortable! The Easy pant has side pockets in the front and is machine washable. I was very excited that these might be the new Minnies for me, after their other versions since that one like the Martie weren’t quite what I was looking for.

The Easy pant was not as cropped as expected and fit more like an ankle length pant than cropped 7/8 pant. It bagged ever so slightly in the rear such that from the front the lines were not as smooth as they could be, but acceptable, given the other desirable qualities. Some reviewers did not like the higher rise, but to me the rise is on-trend, leg lengthening, and stylish. I thought the pant was a little too slim through the thigh and knee, and wish that either it was cut a little less slim or that the fabric had some stretch, especially when sitting. It does not. I found I could size both down and up, due to the elastic waistband, however, sizing up resulted in a longer inseam which would have required tailoring. Overall this pant runs smaller than pants and skirts from past seasons. It seems that J.Crew may have adjusted their size chart yet again, which may actually benefit petites. The final deal-breaking quality for this style was the bulging effect around the middle when sitting down. For some reason, on me the pant poofs out around the stomach area when sitting down in an unflattering way. Am I the only one that has encountered this issue? That, along with the other slight misses noted above resulted in this being a return.

While making that return I encountered the Cameron pant. I have yet to receive my usual size but I am really excited about these based on what I’ve seen so far. They seem to be very flattering, have stretch, and are also machine washable. One of the ongoing issues with J.Crew pants that I anticipate for the Cameron is VPL. I often find myself wondering if pant pockets could be double thickness or if that area could be lined somehow to eliminate this issue. No one that makes pants commercially in America seems to have figured out how to do this yet. WHY.

I like the Cameron pant, at least in theory, as a not-too-skinny option, which still has a place in my wardrobe, but also really want to see the kinks worked out of the Easy pant and that silhouette reworked to either be more 60s cigarette pant or wide leg 70s inspired pant. With an elastic waist. And machine washable. A solid wide leg pant style is noticeably missing from their machine washable pant line-up.

There are a couple sweaters that I really like right now. I really like the heather sandstone color that the Long open cardigan sweater comes in. It’s a great neutral color that looks like it could work for both cool and warm tones, that could be dressed up or down. No petite sizing on that though, and smaller sizes are currently sold out.

I also like the Turtleneck tunic sweatshirt pictured above in the heather camel color for warm tones and deep blush for cool tones. This cotton sweatshirt looks really lightweight for a fall-winter offering (anyone try it? how is it?), but one could really live in this for all casual activity all the way into spring and summer 2018 and beyond, in my opinion. These two items were the only things I could find in neutral taupe-y colors. Would love to see more gray, taupe, heather camel, mushroom, blush, sandstone, etc.

I also recently tried the Garment-dyed ball cap. The website says this is made in the usa. By whom, I do not know, perhaps Ebbets Field Flannels because it is very similar to their J.Crew hat offerings. Both the Garment-dyed ball cap and Ebbets Field hats are very nice. I was concerned that the adjustable leather strap in the back would be cumbersome or ineffective, but I have had no issues. I would recommend either to anyone.

Girls' faux-fur kitty slippers

Kitty slippers

If you have small feet or children, do not miss the faux-fur kitty slippers. They are the best cat slippers I’ve seen yet, and at a very enticing price point.

The nine best swimwear brands for petites, srsly

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I am asked all the time where to get swimwear that is petite-friendly. This post is all my favorite swimwear brands for petites in one place based on years of experience. I am always on the lookout for flattering, high-quality construction in small sizes, so please let me know if you have any tips about other brands!

AERIE

The lead photo is my current pick from Aerie. LOVE their “VOOP” (V-neck plus scoopback) concept, and love this VOOP one piece, but it looks like the one piece fit might still have some design issues to work out. I am not sure about quality and durability, but their sizing should work well for petites. The suits are usually padded.


Acacia

My favorite suits from Acacia are the ones that feature native Hawaiian plant motifs. Acacia makes very flattering suits in small sizes. I’ve never seen a top from them that has any padding, but the seamless (or near seamless) construction (two pieces of spandex fabric sewn together along the inside edges) they seem to consistently opt for is extremely comfortable to wear. So much so that I no longer want to wear any of the older style of swimwear construction (you know, those thick edges folded over with a meshy nude or white colored lining).

L Space Bikini Top & BottomsL*space

L space also makes very flattering suits that are comfortable and stylish.

https://i2.wp.com/n.nordstrommedia.com/ImageGallery/store/product/Zoom/3/_100353523.jpgViX

ViX has been in the swimwear game for a long time and is known for their high quality thicker fabrics that last a long time and stay put in the water. If you like a touch of gold hardware on your suits and rouching, they always seem to have that. They also make classic silhouettes that are very flattering.


Mikoh

Mikoh always has very cute, very strappy, very flattering unpadded swimsuits. They do a lot of colors that would work well for cooler skintones, like the Lychee colorway of the bikini top pictured above. Their suits can be hard to find, but you can shop their website now. Construction is similar to Acacia where the garment feels like a silky second skin, but may not offer enough coverage for some.

 

French cross-back bikini top
J.Crew

J.Crew makes some tiny swimsuits, at least they have in past seasons, which actually make sizing a little tricky, but shipping and returns are complimentary. The French Cross-back Bikini Top is my current favorite. It comes in a multitude of colors and extensive sizing options. They have had some iteration of the French Bikini Top for years, and I like to think they are refining it to perfection, although I wish they would bring their other version of the French Bikini Top back (you know the one with the band along the bust line).

Hurley Quick Dry Tie Dye Women's Surf Bottom Hurley

Hurley was being manufactured in the US, at least partially, by Swimspot for a while but the inventory there seems to be tapering off, which makes me think that manufacturing has moved overseas. I’m not sure where the fit, quality, and styles will end up. Such a shame. They made some great suits for a while.

https://i1.wp.com/static.quiksilver.com/www/store.quiksilver.eu/html/images/catalogs/global/roxy-products/all/default/hi-res/erjx303454_cubagangwoventikitri,w_rzm6_frt1.jpg
Roxy

Roxy is a little hit or miss, both size and design wise. They consistently make good quality suits at affordable prices though, like the Cuban inspired print above. Just keep checking back until they come out with a silhouette that looks promising in a print that you like.

https://splashhawaii.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/BGP_8974.jpg
Splash! Hawaii

Trends come and go, but this suit by Splash Hawaii is always on point. Flattering, wide range of sizes and colors, great quality, affordable, made in Hawaii. I always have this suit in my closet as a go-to staple. You can’t go wrong with a basic triangle bikini top and Brazilian cut bottoms. They have a lot of other styles made in-house, too, and also carry other brands, including a lot of the ones mentioned above.

Have you tried any of these suits? Did I miss your go-to brand? Please let me know in the comments.

Back to black

Afycollection

 

Black Dress / One Shoulder Dress / LBD / Little Black Dress / Pencil Dress / Prom Dress / Party Dress / 330 / marcellamoda - MD003

marcellamoda

 

laminuinette

 

black pleated long dress/ elegant and minimalist/ urban look and simple/ evening dress

yennodiusstudio

 

simple A line linen dress with your choice of sleeve length made to order listing

linenclothingbyanny

 

custom linen bottle spiral dress made to fit listing

linenclothingbyanny

 

Black Kaftan/Asymmetrical Tunic/ Black Dress/Black Casual Kaftan/ Party Dress/Dress/One Shoulder Dress/F1470

FloAtelier

 

After years of snubbing the color that is all colors in favor of the bright and bold, I absolutely cannot get enough of black (is anyone else ogling Michelle Obama’s style, especially the dress she wore in her latest appearance covered by the media?). Most of the dresses featured in this post are made to order to your measurements with very responsive shop owners. This is great news for petites or anyone hard to fit! Is there a black dress you can’t live without?

Current petite-friendly favorites at J.Crew

Textured summer straw hat

I’m not loving stripes or ruffles or the off-shoulder look as much as everyone else it seems. What I love the most at J.Crew right now are the few staple items that have stuck around for the past few seasons.

Topping this list is the Textured Summer Straw Hat, which comes in black and a natural tan. This hat is a head turning statement piece. It makes everything else you wear instantly chic. It’s proportions are perfection. I hope they make this forever. I’m sure they will not. Stock up while it’s available. Everyone should have one. The description for the current version says it is foldable and packable, although in past seasons it was not and it looks the same as past seasons.

French cross-back bikini top

Next up is the French Cross-back Bikini Top. It comes in a multitude of colors and extensive sizing options. The sizing is a little tricky but with free shipping and returns, it isn’t too much of a hassle to get the right fit.

Ebbets Field Flannels® for J.Crew Brooklyn Eagles ball cap

Love this twill Ebbets Field Flannels hat. Ebbets Field carries this hat in wool. It’s nice to have the twill option here, although wool sounds good, too…

Knot-back tank top

The one thing I like out of the new arrivals is this Knot-back Tank Top. It has a more modest overlap in the back than some of the other versions I’ve seen, which is a nice option to have if you aren’t a fan of a more exposed back.