Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Ultimate Quest for Rest

leep has never really been a top priority for me. A few more cups of coffee, cat nap here and there, and getting by on five hours or so has been the norm for a very long time. Since I was 17 I've never really had a real bed. It's been a futon on the floor, pull-out couch, whatever. And then it dawned on me that having a grown-up bed is just...well, grown up. It was time to do this.

Shopping for a mattress has to be the most time consuming and yet useless endeavor on the planet. Choices range from actual Japanese futons (purportedly amazing) to springs/coils to memory foam to latex to various inflatable options. Price ranges from $400 to $10,000+. Hoards of advice, and then contradictions to that advice. Scams abound. Enough technical diagrams and cutaway photos to bore you into oblivion.

My search started with price point. I wasn't going to pay over $4,000 no matter how comfortable it was or how long the useless warranties extended for. That narrowed the field a lot, but still left companies like Duxiana, Euro-flex, Sealy, and a zillion more. Dux beds were at the high end of the price point (a bit more, even) and yet the customer reviews were mixed. Few were downright uncomfortable, but many thought that it was not money well spent. And their customer service is apparently lacking. No good. Euro-flex seemed like a good option, and the materials they sent were assuring. But there was no way to see one in NYC, and a flight to San Diego (their one showroom) to look at them and customize it seemed extreme. Sealy had generally good reviews but their mattresses are often sold by companies rife with "switch the label" scams. Most advice dictates that you should physically see the mattress and lie on it for 15 to 30 minutes. Who has time for that? (And what place would even let you do that?!)

Time for a new strategy - one that didn't require me to see the mattress, lie on it, and yet trust that it is what it is. Enter Four Seasons Hotels. I read that Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, a luxury hotel company, is selling their proprietary designed mattresses (built by Sterns & Foster, a division of Sealy) to the consumer public. I've been to a couple Four Seasons hotels and resorts. I slept fine. It's a reputable company. Have you ever heard from someone that they had a nice time at the Four Seasons, except that the bed was uncomfortable? I haven't. And then the more I thought, the more I realized their challenge. Their beds need to be universally comfortable for a wide array of clientele. They don't want to replace them frequently, so it needs to last a long time. The only way to order them is directly through the hotel. Problem solved.

They say to allow four to six weeks for delivery. Mine showed up in three weeks. You can order the mattress, the box spring, a frame, and even sheets through them. The prices were reasonable - well within budget. I just ordered the mattress. It's thicker than most at 15 and a half inches. It has over 500 coils and a super-plush pillowtop. And comfort? Absolutely unsurpassed.  Contact the Four Seasons Hotel nearest you for pricing and details.

Sleep well!
--A

Thursday, June 16, 2011

All-Clad Porcelain & Steel Bakeware Takes the Cake

told you about All-Clad's cookware before. It's amazing, and IMHO the best you can find. Well back when I was picking up some more at Bed Bath & Beyond I came across a new line of bakeware that was a Pillivuyt porcelain dish with an All-Clad trivet. I examined it for a while, and then stuck to immediate needs which was more in the cookware area.

Last weekend I was back in Bed Bath & Beyond. Don't get me wrong - I'm not a huge fan of this overcrowded store (you'd think people had never seen fans before) but it offers cheap cleaning supplies. Apparently they also sell food too, which is odd. I digress. Back in the All-Clad section, and this porcelain/steel combo was gone. Suspecting it wasn't going to reappear, I went home and researched.

Indeed, the line is getting pulled. Why?!? Is the American public really that big of a group of philistines? I looked around and found a guy on eBay who was liquidating a lot of them in new-in-box (NIB) condition for half price. Two models were made, a square one and a rectangular one. Surprisingly enough, the square pan was larger. I liked it better, so I bought two. They arrived two days later.

Pillivuyt is a French porcelain company that has been around since 1818. They are considered one of the top porcelain producers in the world. All-Clad was founded in 1960 and is considered one of the top crafters of cooking steel. Combined, this is some incredible talent. Pillivuyt's porcelain dish can go in the microwave, the oven, the dishwasher, and the freezer. It's heavy and beautiful and separate from the metal trivet. The trivet is constructed of steel and has rubber feet that will not scratch the table surface. It has carry handles that stay cool.

As far as I can tell there are two types of trivets.  There are beautiful trivets that are useless - things slide off or the trivet transfers too much heat.  There are also very practical trivets that  work well and look awful.  All-Clad's trivet scores points for both form and function.  It protects the table from temperature and scratches, allows people to pass and serve from a hot pan, and adds style to the table.

Remember, these are being discontinued, so choose the one you like (or hell, the one you can find) and get it before it's too late.  And shame on that All-Clad exec for canning this product.  The all-steel pans are nice, but just not the same!


--A

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Custom (MTM) Shirt; Part 2

s soon as I had picked out my fabrics, it was time to be measured. Having been used to choosing shirts based on collar and sleeve length alone, I was quite unprepared for the intense measuring process.  Shoulders, forearms, both wrists, three chest measurements, individual arm length, neck, etc...  When it came to wrist measurements, I was asked if the watch I was wearing would be worn with these shirts.  Upon my affirmative answer, the wrist with the watch was measured separately as if the watch was an additional part of my wrist.  Arm measurements were staggering - my left arm was nearly an inch longer than my right.  I was asked if I wore my shirts tucked, if I preferred a slim fit, and more.  Mr. Chang takes his shirts seriously.

After working out measurement details, a few drawers were opened and out came a myriad of collar styles, followed by countless cuff styles.  As I made my choices, all information was carefully recorded in Chinese for the makers.  One small attribute that I found necessary to customize was the buttonhole on the forearm.  Typically, it's cut in the same direction of the forearm.  This is easier for the shirtmaker as the button placement does not have to line up as neatly - if it's off a hair here or there the length of the buttonhole compensates for misplacement.  Since I knew of the quality of Ascot Chang, I had them cut the buttonhole perpendicular to the forearm which I prefer and appreciate.  Monogram?  No thank you.  Forearm buttonhole for the one French cuff shirt?  Pass.  Each answer appeared to please Mr. Chang, and whether it really did or did not, it was very reassuring.

At this point, it was well past closing time, although none of the sales staff even hinted of this.  I could have taken all the time in the world and I felt they would have been glad to accommodate me.   Mr. Chang thanked me for my order and explained he would be in touch with me in two weeks when the test shirt was completed.

Without fail, my test shirt arrived from Hong Kong within the promised two week period.  It was ironed and prepared for my visit.  Upon trying it on, all seemed well, but Mr. Chang asked that I bring it home, wear it, wash it, and wear it again.  Collar and cuff sizes were to shrink up to a half inch, and I was advised to test their fit before the other shirts were made.  I did this, and after washing the right sleeve did indeed feel a bit short.  Another visit with Mr. Chang corrected this, and subsequently the other shirts were made and shipped.  They were perfect.

With my measurements on file, I can order more shirts at any time by stopping in and choosing new fabrics, or by calling in an order for the fabrics I had already chosen (keep your receipt!).  On the next visit, I hope to look into customizing other features such as button hole stitch colors an the like.  One thing is for certain - Ascot Chang's care and consideration for my small shirt order will make me a loyal customer for a long time to come.

--A