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.


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.


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.


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.


Best wireless headphones, according to a woman!


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.


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?

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.

American made ball caps

Brooklyn Eagles 1935 Vintage Ballcap
Ebbets Field Flannels 1935 Brooklyn Eagles ball cap

After several hat purchases – all products imported from abroad – that have been underwhelming for a variety of reasons, and after seeing J.Crew carry American-made hats, I became curious about what hat options are left after all of the imported products are filtered out.

Well, there are only three companies that I can find that make (or at least firmly claim to make) their baseball caps in the USA.

But first, here are some amusing statements I’ve seen along the way:

USA Seller
(printed in red white and blue flag-like graphic reminiscent of classic Made in USA logo)

Made in USA and/or Imported

Made in USA and Imported


Ebbets Field Flannels (see lead photo), based in Seattle, looks like a pretty cool shop that specializes in reproducing vintage baseball paraphernalia with great attention to detail, craftsmanship, and material selection. It’s hard to choose just one of their many hat styles. They even offer blank hats now and they’ve been collaborating with J.Crew.


Light Liberty Clouds Ball Cap

FairEnds Light Liberty Clouds hat


FairEnds says their hats are made in California, and they’ve collaborated with Madewell in the past. They seem to focus on minimalism, eschewing logos and branding in favor of producing a classic product that works for everyone, kind of like the Rayban Wayfarer of baseball hats. Their hat silhouettes somehow manage to simultaneously feel both vintage and modern, at least on the heads of their Madewell-esque models.


Bayside hat


Finally, there is Bayside, which makes both structured and unstructured caps in brushed and washed twill using 100% cotton material. They also have union made t-shirts in five styles. These are pretty straight-forward hats veering towards utilitarian, free of any hipster-like qualities. They only come blank, ready for your own creative printing project, crafty embellishments, or minimalist styling.

That’s it! I could only find three! (For comparison, according to one website, about 43.8 million baseball caps are sold in the US per year as of 2016.) Anyone know of any other American hat manufacturers?


Sunday Funglasses

Aerie Pineapple Sunglasses

Yes, I am fully aware of how frivolous and unnecessary funglasses are. Nobody needs a pair of cheap shades with lenses shaped like hearts or fruits or charismatic pandas. The lenses are never as clear or sun-protective or scratch-resistant as the glasses one might procure from an opthamologist in standard oval, square, or cateye shapes. They never have the option to add a custom prescription or anti-glare coating. They never come polarized.

Yet I have been sporting a pair of classic heart-shaped sunglasses for the better part of two years that I got for just a few dollars at Claire’s of all places, and am delighted to report that while nobody’s life is changed by standard eye-doctor sunglasses, a pair of classic heart-shaped glasses has the power to transform other people’s ordinary, errand-filled, hum drum days into hum drum days punctuated by an extraordinary moment of highly memorable joy.

Funglasses are an easy way to filter the debbie downer grumps from those gems of humanity that have a healthy sense of humor and appreciation of creative self-expression and random quirkiness. Because the most highly evolved humans do not judge you sternly for your decision to pursue frivolity and fun in your fashion choices. No. They are overcome with amusement and giggles and delight in the silliness of it all. They understand that life is hard, so why not shape a pair of eyeglasses into pineapples.

I am all about delicately balancing form against function, with function as the foundation of good design. Eliciting pure joy from a form that also (mostly) fulfills its utilitarian goals is what great design is all about.

Pink Heart Sunglasses from Paper Source. (Unsure about sizing.) Also, Unicorn Lipgloss and heart shaped drink straws.

Daisy Sunglasses, also from Paper Source. (See product description for sizing info.)

Pink Flamingo Party Sunglasses / Tenacious Peacock (Unsure about sizing.)

Totes, totes

product photo

Totes are everywhere. I can’t even remember what preceded them now. Maybe the hobo or satchel? Stylistically, I’ve moved on to coveting crossbody bags, but often you have a lot of junk to haul around that requires a larger bag. That’s where the tote comes in. (A large crossbody is essentially a messenger, and while it may be slightly more practical, I’ve never been a fan of them.)

I, like every other woman on earth, like the Longchamp Le Pliage a lot. It may not be the most beautiful bag ever made, but it balances style and function well. It’s lightweight and allows one to look put together and business-like in an understated way. It packs well, making it great for travel. It can hold a lot of stuff. It zips shut.

I can’t speak to the durability of the Le Pliage because I opted for a knock off straight from China because I’m cheap…I mean, because the 10 inch strap drop length of the Le Pliage felt slightly too long and the knock off has a shorter strap drop of about 7.9 inches (20 cm). It does show wear after a while and won’t last forever, but I’ve gotten a fair amount of use out of it. It is not exactly the same as the Le Pliage design wise, but still achieves the same ratio of form to function, actually has more proportional sizing to a petite frame in my opinion, and is similar enough that other people mistake it for the real deal. If I knew that the Le Pliage held up much better, I might opt for it instead, but I figure all nylon and thin leather will eventually show wear. The knock off sells for a fraction of the price and I believe it has that plastic edging on the leather instead of raw edges.

The only things I don’t like about the Le Pliage design are that it’s stingy with interior pockets and it lacks structure. It won’t stand up on its own if you set it on the ground. That’s obviously the trade-off for it being packable and lightweight.

I probably won’t invest in a bag with more structure any time soon, but can’t help looking around to see what’s out there. The reversible Street Level tote at Nordstrom is similarly easy on the eyes and has an 8 inch strap drop length. One of the bicolor options is black/brown, which I think is genius! It looks a little awkward in the product photos to have brown on the underside of the bag handles, but that seems like a small price to pay for having a black and brown bag in one. It’s faux leather, but has over 800 reviews, including one glowing testimony to the bag’s relentless durability. At under $50, it sure is enticing.

Old Navy’s Classic Tote (pictured above) is even more affordable, and I prefer its design over its sister brands’ offerings. It has a 10 inch strap drop and seems a little on the large size. There is also a zippered option of unstated dimensions. Both are faux leather.

At this point, I think I prefer faux leather for a tote. Faux leather can look so much like real leather aesthetically these days. And the handles of totes seem to be their Achilles’ heel. Why have a leather bag that will last for ages when its (often too skinny) handles will inevitably fail and render the bag useless? How hard is it to replace bag handles?

People seem to really get into their bag purchases. When I think about purchasing a handbag, I do feel a little societal pressure to make it a big investment purchase. Like it should be a beacon of status and achievement. Like your success in life is judged by the quality of the bag you carry and the shoes you don. Like you do not take your career or yourself seriously if you don’t meet some unwritten standard of nice-but-not-too-nice. But those kinds of bags weigh as much as the stuff they are designed to contain. Why would I want to carry around two bags?

Back to limping along my well worn Le Pliage knock-off. Good design trumps beauty when it comes to the carry-all, at least for me, for now. What’s your go-to, must-have bag?

Currently thinking about: versatile crossbody bags

Recently I picked up a fabulous vintage 1990s (yikes! 1990s is vintage now?!) crossbody purse in black leather from a thrift store and rejoiced in its not-seen-on-everyone-everywhere shape and lack of those plastic finished edges that are ubiquitous now. I love the style, but the strap is too long and not adjustable.

It can be a challenge to find bags that are proportioned for smaller frames and a shorter stature. I generally size down: large probably means jumbo to the point where the bag makes me look like a child playing dress up, medium is most likely large, small is medium, and something like a wristlet is still sizeable enough to qualify as a purse.

I like the idea of a crossbody, but gave up trying to find one with a short enough strap length and a small enough bag size years ago. Too long and large and the bag is not only aesthetically awkward, it takes on a life and personality of its own, bobbing around you and dragging you down into the sidewalk by the shoulder with each step.

The Madewell Simple Crossbody (pictured above) appears to be perfect for petites. The body of the bag measures approximately 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.75 inches, with an approximately 21.5 inch adjustable strap drop. Although it’s never clear in product descriptions if that is the maximum or minimum strap drop (ideally brands would provide both), most of the reviews comment on the strap length either being too short (if they are average height or taller) or hitting perfectly at the hip (if they are petite). This is great news for petites!

I like that the Simple Crossbody has a zippered closure and that the strap is removable, allowing the bag to function as a large clutch. The downsides for me are the lone interior pocket; the zipper pull, unappealing in both form and function, seemingly a downgrade from the classic YKK pull; and the casual aesthetic that is oh-soo-perfect for every daytime activity I can think of, but that I can’t imagine transitioning well into the night for anything other than the most casual affairs.

The Dooney and Bourke Daphne Crossbody Wallet is like a wristlet with more depth and a crossbody length strap. The Daphne has a detachable strap, and unlike the Madewell bag, I can see it potentially transitioning from day to evening more seamlessly. It has way more interior pockets, as well as credit card slots and an exterior zip pocket, but the main compartment snaps shut instead of zippering (wish it had a sunken zipper) and the adjustable strap’s drop is listed as a whopping 25 inches. That makes it a great candidate for average to tall people, but probably too long and unwieldy for petites without leather alterations or purchasing a shorter 1 x 1 x 15 inch replacement strap (in Vachetta Natural, Butterscotch, or Tan, but note the reviews that say the width is actually 9/16 inch and the colors differ from their names).


Daphne Crossbody Wallet


For years, I have been quietly hoping that someone would make a high quality, highly versatile bag like the Daphne with interchangeable straps. A long crossbody strap is perfect for using a bag like the Daphne as a purse, but it would also be nice to have a shorter strap option to convert to wristlet, and to be able to go sans strap when a clutch or wallet is desired. Well, D&B has made the Daphne strap completely removable, and they sell replacement straps of varying lengths (including those with a 15 inch drop length mentioned above), but only in different shades of tan.

Other options:

Leatherology Katy Mini Crossbody

4.5 x 7.75 x 1 inches, fully removable strap with adjustable 15 to 22.5 drop length, extra points for stating that clearly on website, strap is secured through slots hidden on the underside of the flap (seems like that may cause the flap to unsnap if pulled too hard), monogrammable up to six characters.

J.Crew Factory Mini Crossbody Bag in Leather

5.25 x 7.25 x 2.25 inches, adjustable but not removable strap, probably lined with fabric, may not have any interior pockets, unstated strap drop (but appears to be on the shorter side), affordable. Also see: J.Crew Edit and Signet bags.

Kate Spade Tenley

8.5 x 7 x 1.5 inches, adjustable 21-23 inch strap drop, mail bag shape, zipper closure, one interior and exterior pocket, potential quality issues.

BP Minimal Faux Leather Crossbody

8 x 6.5 x 3.25 inches, adjustable 21-24 inch strap drop on fully removable strap, snap closure on flap, not really a clutch silhouette, very affordable.

What crossbody or other bag do you recommend or are you currently considering?