Bottega Veneta Window NYC

A Long Strange Trip to Drinks at London Bar NYC

If there’s anything The Wiz has taught me, it’s that scary things live in the subway.

Broadway Lights
The lights of Zoo York are much easier to process than the window decorations.

When I am in Manhattan, you can bet I am on an assignment adventure. This time, I accepted an invitation from Gordon Ramsay’s London Bar NYC to try their Fashion Week-themed drinks.

My mother and I headed out from the Millennium Hotel in Times Square for a chilly walk that day, talking the long way ’round in hopes of shoving some New York sights into our eyeballs before grabbing drinks on Chef Ramsay’s dime. Little did we know, our journey to complimentary cocktails would be a gauntlet of giant man-eating dolls and shiny wild animals.

Armani 5th Avenue Storefront
Armani 5th Avenue Storefront

Since we were in NYC during fashion week, I was expecting to see some of the best window displays along 5th Avenue. The above Armani shop was inspiring; decked out in hearts and nothing but breathtaking.

However, this little lady was lurking just down the street:

Bottega Veneta Window NYC
Ultra Creepy Bottega Veneta Window NYC

And by ‘little lady’, I mean a 10 foot tall Blythe doll. Check out the security guard standing next to her. Oh, thanks, Bottega Veneta. You’ve erased all fear of street crime from my brain, because now I’ve got this reality to deal with.

It was unsettling, until I realized that her friends were lurking just a few steps away. Then my brain broke: Nope nope nope nope.

Bottega Veneta Window NYC
My mother fearlessly faces the Bottega Veneta Window sentinels.

All I can think of is what their blinking must sound like. Suddenly, I’m in a dark alley. Click-clack. Squeeeak. Good thing their proportions would make running virtually impossible. They’d canter forward unsteadily, and then crumple into a ball of bouncing, breaking plastic, rolling down the sidewalk and into a subway stairwell.

If there’s anything The Wiz has taught me, it’s that scary things live in the subway:

Later, we crossed paths into another realm; an ethereal world of gossamer dreams, glimmering secrets, and overpriced accessories:

NYC Window Display
A magical merry-go-round. Without the fun!
NYC Window Display
Silver animals writhing with purses = I wanna buy that?

Draped in purses, shoes, sunglasses and scarves, these animals somehow seemed more naked than a Yogi Bear. Maybe it was the because they were shiny? Shiny in an obscene way, somehow. Put some pants on, you animals!

If you know where these were, let me know. They were life-sized and absolutely beautiful. Almost enough to bleach my brain the Blythe nightmare fuel down the street.

Time to See the Wizard

After fighting our way though the jungle of horror and whimsy, we arrived at the London Bar in need of a hard drink or four.

Our selections included the London Red Carpet, Little Black Dress, and Haute Toddy (get it? get it? Fashion week!)

My favorite drink at the London Bar, by far, was the Haute Toddy. Incidentally, my husband, Mr. Todd, makes regular ol’ ‘Hot Toddys’ for me back at home, so I may have been a bit biased. That, and the Haute Toddy was a hot drink, and the warmth of my soul had just been sucked out by our cold Manhattan walk and the sleepless evil of Blythe.

Rain Blankent at the London Bar
Whiskey conquers all fears, once again!

Even though I’m a fan of drinking my dinner, we ordered a plate of $11 french fries. This beat my previous single french fry order record of $9. Hey, when you give an Irish lady some spending money, she’s likely to go buy whiskey and potatoes. Just saying. Since my whiskey was free, the fries seemed like a downright bargain (no).

London Bar NYC’s ‘Stylish Sips’ Top Four:

  1. Haute Toddy: After a long walk in the cold, a Haute Toddy was hands-down our favorite. Boozed up with plenty of whiskey, this spin on an old favorite had just enough citrus to keep the taste light.
  2. Little Black Dress: This one is a chocolatey Kahlua drink served over ice with a cherry. Though it was a dessert drink, this one wasn’t too rich, diluted enough to keep it tasting clean.
  3. London Red Carpet: This crimson beverage was fruit-punchy, but not sickly sweet. However, it was supposed to be spicy, but lacked the kick that i was expecting.
  4. Glamazon: This one comes in last, just because it didn’t have as strong a theme or ‘gimmick’ as the first three. Spicy, chocolaty, and hot are hard to compete with when you’re just a fruity seabreeze.


Rain Blanken, Michelle Levy

A Fashion Week Crafternoon at M&J Trimming with Michelle Levy

Rain Blanken, Michelle Levy
Michelle and Rain above the every button and feather in the M&J Trimmings store

M&J Trimming, located in the heart of Manhattan, is a wonderland. Well, for the right person. On the first day of 2014 NYC Fall Fashion Week, my mother and I arrived at M&J Trimming fresh from the iconic Macy’s on 34th street. I had just tried on a Michael Kors jacket and drooled over $89.00 DKNY shoes, so my inspiration palette was full. M&J Trimming was the perfect spot to find myself after a day of window shopping.

I know you’ve done this, too; When you’re at Macy’s in front of a pair of designer studded shoes, rubbing your chin and thinking to yourself, ‘I could make this, if only I had…’.

Studded Shoe DIY
Studded DKNY shoes at the 24th Street Macy’s… only $89.99, eh?

Coming in off of the windy, snow-covered streets, I was suddenly surrounded by everything that I needed to complete the fashions that I had stood in front of just minutes earlier. This made me infinitely jealous of New York natives; in NYC, just pop down to M&J Trimming to find the studs, buttons, and feathers needed to finish the job.

But, this wasn’t just any shopping trip. I was at M&J Trimming to interview Michelle Levy, the lead designer behind Project DIY. These kits contain everything you need to create unique jewelry styles inspired by the latest runway looks. After reviewing the Joan of Arc and Baroque & Roll kits from Project DIY, I was eager to meet the woman behind the projects and tutorials that I had enjoyed so much. Hey, you guys know I can appreciate a good tutorial.

After our craft session and interview, my mom looked down to see that Michelle was wearing a pair of cool studded boots. Surprise, the top was studded strap that Michelle had made… a technique I was just pondering in Macy’s down the street!

Michelle Levy Shoes
What can’t she do?

Read my full interview with Project DIY Lead Designer, Michelle Levy…

FIrst NYC Visit

I Get it Now: My First Trip to NYC

First Trip to NYC
Rain at the offices during her first NYC Visit

After a weekend in New York City, here I am sitting in my quiet suburban Ohio home. It feels a lot like when you have a super busy day, then lay down in bed to sleep. As your head buzzes with recent events, it can be hard to get a wink of shuteye. Going to NYC and coming home to Ohio is like that; awake, asleep… I’ll be processing my first glimpse of the city for weeks.

I was in NYC for the annual Guide Event. It’s a way for all of us Experts to get together and discuss business… but more importantly, it’s a chance to meet the other writers and staff over drinks.

Here, I learned that there is no shame in changing from my airplane clothes to cocktail hour attire in the company bathroom. Apparently city folk do this kind of thing all the time.

My very first experience in NYC was jumping off the subway and angrily fast-walking through the city. Like a real New Yorker! As newbies, my husband and I had missed our subway stop, resulting in a mad dash from 16th street up to 43rd on Times Square to make the first meeting. Okay, it was for cocktail hour, but our first time meeting the other Experts. I will run for cocktails.

Rain Blanken at the offices
What’s that my whiskey is pointing to?

I went from dumpy t-shirt and jeans to my business casual attire ala Superman… in the bathroom stall, then attempted to pass it off as a clever demonstration of that DIY Fashion expertise. Not bad for stall couture, eh? Hey, look, my bourbon is gravitating toward something on the wall…

Aaron Gold and Rain Blanken
Aaron Gold and Rain Blanken

Myself and our Cars Expert, Aaron Gold. Love this guy!

With about 200 Experts in attendance -plus staff- conversations were almost like speed dating. What is your site? Where are you from? Nice top! NEXT!

The crazy thing about this event is that each writer is an absolute expert in their site topic. At one point, I was talking about visiting Brooklyn during our stay, and the Brooklyn expert actually started hand-writing directions to her top recommendations. My internet dreams were coming true. Thanks, Ellen!

Representing DIY Fashion, I sported my finger-knit scarf and a button bracelet both at the event and on the streets of New York City. While fashion tends to be high-end in midtown, I received enough compliments on my homemade accessories to loiter proudly outside Tiffany’s.

Saturday night, We headed to Times Square for some tourist-overload and I cleverly swapped my heels for sneakers at dinner. I’m already a pro at this! My number one fashion tip for NYC is this: Wear sneakers and pack the heels in your bag. Yep, these obvious bits of information are why I’m paid to do this.

Rain Blanken Times Square
So many people, so much shopping potential.
M&Ms Store in Times Square
The M&Ms store, where I shamefully spent $30 on candy in front of the Frugal Living Expert.

As a first-timer, I had no idea how common celebrity sightings are in NYC. While headed to Times Square on Saturday night, Bonny, Dating Expert, nonchalantly pointed out Mr. Anderson Cooper. I may have followed him across the street to prove to her that it wasn’t him. It was, and he was surprised.

If you have hung around this site for very long, then you know I loves me some costumes. NYC did not disappoint on a Saturday night in September. With my Halloween anticipation peaking, I got pretty excited about the everyday masquerade in the city.

Here are some of the most notable Time Square costumes:

NYC Naked Cowboy
Naked Cowboy! She looks really happy about this, eh?
Statue of Liberty Costumes NYC
Statue of Liberty guys on stilts… almost more iconic than Naked Cowboy.

And Gold Guy!

Gold Guy NYC
If 30 Rock has taught me anything, it’s that you can find success as a metallic-painted street performer.

Here is my own costume for crawling Madison Avenue on a Sunday afternoon:

Rain Blanken NYCI was terrified of this statue (due to my stupid megalophobia), but I survived.

39 Rock Rain Blanken
Yes, I’m being Liz Lemon, what of it?? Office NYC
My Sunday breakfast above Times Square in the offices.

And just to remind myself of what NYC has to offer, here was my Sunday breakfast view from the 6th floor of 1500 Broadway. A far cry from watching Gizmo’s morning squirrel chase in the backyard. Oh, NYC, I’ll be back soon!

I was posting these photos and more in real time on Twitter. If you want to follow my adventures live, follow me @DIY_Fashion.