Thursday, June 30, 2011

Interview: Beyond the Strip

I am absolutely thrilled to bring another interview feature to The Present Perfect! Today, we have the lovely Alexandra Epstein from El Cortez Hotel & Casino and Cabana Suites in fabulous Las Vegas. Alex is probably the kindest, funniest, and most accomplished person you will ever meet, and she has amazing taste and style to boot! It’s no wonder that this lady has been officially dubbed the “Queen of Downtown.”


As the executive manager and vice president of marketing at El Cortez, not to mention a Sin City native, Alex knows a thing or two about shopping and gifting Vegas-style. She took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions:

You live in fabulous Las Vegas, a city that is known for being over the top. What is the craziest gift you have ever received?

One gift that gave me a big laugh was from a friend who is known to be a bit on the quirky side. He visited Bonanza Gifts, the "World's Largest Gift Shop," and hand-picked several of the most "Vegas" items he could find - anything pink, feathered, glittery - and SO me. It was perhaps my favorite gift of my past birthday. 

Vegas is also known for incredible shopping. Where are your favorite places to find gifts?

Vegas is a great place to find gifts! If you look around, you can find appropriate things for anyone on your list. For everything from handmade items, vintage clothing, vinyl records to incredible artwork, I go to the shops and galleries inside Emergency Arts. For jewelry, The Jewelers of Las Vegas is a Vegas institution that has an great selection and specializes in custom designs. Fashion Show Mall and The Forum Shops are also staples of the Alex Epstein shopping experience.

What are your three favorite things about your city?

1. It's a small town at heart.

2. We have the best shopping and food in the world.

3. We are filled with pioneer spirit! Case in point, Downtown Las Vegas.

What's the one piece of advice you'd want to impart on a Vegas newcomer?

Go Downtown! Explore. There is a whole lot more to Vegas than the Strip (all those hotels are just on one long street!). Also, get to know your neighbors - we're pretty friendly!

What is the absolute worst or cheesiest souvenir gift that someone could bring home from Vegas?

One of those yard-long alcoholic beverage containers. Oy.

What was the first casino you ever gambled in?

I don't think I've ever gambled in Vegas! I did put a quarter in a machine at the Atlantis in the Bahamas after my high school graduation. Gambling age is 18 there, so there was some novelty to that.

What gift idea makes you think, "That's SO Vegas..."?

Fuzzy dice, a pair of golden Elvis shades, a replica of the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, a poker chip keychain… the list goes on and on!

As if Alex weren’t already taking the town by storm (which is no small feat in a city so full of glitz and activity), her team has partnered with the Brooklyn label No Mas in creating graphic tees that celebrate El Cortez’s 70th anniversary and everything that comes with its history, such as Vegas’s first boxing matches and former mobster owners Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel… These shirts are SUPER cool and were featured by GQkind of a big deal!

2011.06.30 - El Cortez Tees

{El Cortez t-shirts, $34}

The shirts are available for sale on the No Mas website, as well as in person at the El Cortez gift shop, and at trendy retailers such as Colette in Paris. I personally LOVE the gray one on the right. A big congratulations to Alex and the El Cortez team! For my post on their amazing hotel accommodations, click here.

Images courtesy of Seven Magazine and 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sunny Outlook

Kind of ironic that I write a post with this title when it’s been mostly gray skies here in Seattle, but I really like the message of today’s pick… which is that the glass is always half full:

2011.06.29 - Half Full

{Positivity Glass, $14}

It’s sometimes easy to lose perspective and get caught up in the drama that creeps into our day-to-day lives. However, the happiest people I know are the ones who are truly able to look for a silver lining in every cloud—and this glass is an excellent reminder to do just that. With cup-in-a-cup design, your beverage will never make its way down to the “Half Empty” portion of this one!

On another note, I want to call some attention to what a ROCK STAR my friend (and loyal blog follower) Charlotte is for making the LANDING PAGE OF THE NEW YORK MAGAZINE WEBSITE! She works so hard and is super committed to her job as an editor for The Cut—and it is SO inspiring to see it all pay off! She also rocks because I came home to a package containing a Taylor Swift calendar and two Levain cookies today… such a thoughtful treat to cap off a very long day. Thank you!

See below to share her glory, and to witness my very advanced Microsoft Paint skills.


Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope to have another featured interview up at some point next week. Happy Wednesday!

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Hello, everyone. I have two confessions to make:

1. I am completely obsessed with stripes, particularly those of the nautical variety.

2. The inspiration for this post comes from one of my favorite blogs, which is very cutely named Oh, Joy!

2011.06.28 - Striped Backpack

{Poketo striped backpack, $58}

I LOVE THIS BACKPACK! It is absolutely darling and just the right amount of preppy. Made of fleece and big enough to fit a 15” laptop, it is perfect for either school or a weekend trip out to the beach. Also comes in charcoal and grey beige!

Image courtesy of

Monday, June 27, 2011

Surf’s Up

Happy Monday, everyone! I can now proudly say that I completed a half marathon! It was a really fun experience, and such fun to run through scenic Seattle and listen to live bands playing all along the race course. My knees are still a little shaky, but that’s okay…

My friend Calvin recently told me about a super cool store called Saturdays NYC. They are a great purveyor of surf and lifestyle items, and I particularly liked this item for the gentlemen:

2011.06.27- Saturdays TShirt

{Bolt t-shirt, $35}

Lightning Bolt is a Maui-based company that makes surfboards and surf apparel. I like this shirt because it’s surfer-cool in an understated way. I also feel like it could be utilized as part of some sort of superhero costume. Gnarly!

Image courtesy of

Friday, June 24, 2011

Kid-Friendly Baking

Did you know that Crate & Barrel has a line of children’s furniture and décor? Who knew—I happened to stumble across The Land of Nod when I was perusing CB2, and I absolutely fell in love with this gift idea:

2011.06.24 - Cookies

{Cookie playset, $19.95}

HOW AWESOME is this?! When I was a little kid, my hands-down favorite toy was a little kitchen set that consisted of a play stove, plastic pots and pans, and plastic food—I thought I was pretty badass with my fake toaster and the plastic pieces of bread that went with it. Needless to say, this cookie playset would have sent me over the moon. I mean, it’s sending me over the moon right now and I am well into my 20’s. So imagine how sweet (no pun intended) this would be to a five year old.

The coolest part is that the little wooden cookie circles have magnets that join them together to be a roll of dough that you can “slice” with the knife. Apparently, the 2-sided fasteners also make a realistic slicing noise when you “cut” them. Then you add the topping pieces for decoration. Yum! And how cute is that gingham oven mitt?!

Added bonus: 5% of the proceeds from this sale go to No Kid Hungry. Everyone wins!

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


2011.06.22 - Jcrew iPhone Cover

{J.Crew iPhone cover, $22.50}

I’m really on a J.Crew kick this week! Well, readers, the story behind today’s pick is that I finally caved and bought an iPhone this week… my poor little BlackBerry basically kicked the bucket and I decided to upgrade. I love it so far, even though it takes me a million years to type the simplest text message.

I’m 99% sure that my friend Megan wore a J.Crew dress in this print to our black tie gala this past spring—and now your phone can be just as beautiful as she was!

Note: this case does not fit the Verizon iPhone perfectly, which is exactly why I didn’t get it. Bummer for me! However, if you have AT&T, you should probably be okay.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tweet All About It!

2011.06.21 - Paper Mache Bird

{Paper Mache Bird, $10}

I know, I know… I’ve officially turned into a bird lady. But I just LOVE this little avian friend from West Elm! It’s a great little accent piece and priced cheaply enough to be a “just for fun” type of gift. I love the way that they styled this paper mache guy atop some stacked books, too. I’d definitely get this as a little home décor gift, or perhaps for someone to decorate his/her cubicle with at a new job!

Image courtesy of

Monday, June 20, 2011

Emerald City

Happy Monday, and greetings from Seattle! As bummed as I was to leave Nashville, I am looking forward to spending the rest of the summer months in the Pacific Northwest—it’s pretty much the only time of year when I can rely on the weather to be nice! Also, I am excited to see my friends here and embark on some new adventures. I will very much miss the folks I befriended in Music City, but I am confident that I will be back there soon enough.

Given Seattle’s nickname of “Emerald City” (due to all those those trees, I believe) I thought it would be fun to do a Wizard of Oz-inspired item. Thus, I present you with these J.Crew ballet flats:

2011.06.20 - Glitter Flats

2011.06.20 - Glitter Flats 2

{J.Crew glitter flats, $135}

While they are not ruby red slippers, I figured these would be a fun nod to Dorothy without being too costumey. Also, for whatever reason, I want to say that the book describes the slippers as silver, not red…

I love the little color-blocked toe action—it’s a fun but subtle detail. Yellow brick road or not, these shoes will leave you happily skipping along!

Images courtesy of

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bedtime Stories

2011.06.15 - Go the F to Sleep

{Go the F**k to Sleep$8.22}

… for Mom and Dad. Many of you have probably already heard of this book, but after witnessing or hearing about bedtime mayhem from my friends who are parents, I thought it deserved a spot on the blog. A sampling:

“The cats nestle close to their kittens, / The lambs have laid down with the sheep. / You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear. / Please go the f**k to sleep.”

A humorous and silly gift for any parent with small children!

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Campfire Drinks

2011.06.15 - Flask

{Stanley flask, $20}

For the mountain man (or woman) in your life, look no further than this compact whiskey flask by Stanley. It’s completely practical: BPA free, check. Rust-proof stainless steel, check. Narrow shape for pocket stowage, check. Just add some Jack or Redbreast, and you’ll be ready for some ruggedly tipsy times around the campfire!

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wes Anderson

I am really excited because my sister arrives in Nashville today! She’s going to be doing a whirlwind trip lasting approximately 36 hours, but I have a day free to take her around Music City. Can’t wait!

Something my sister and her fiance share is a love for all things Wes Anderson, so this Etsy find made me think of them:

2011.06.14 - Wes Anderson

{Wes Anderson prints, $9.90 for a set of 3}

These limited-edition prints are based on originals illustrated by the artist and measure 4”x6”. So basically, small but cool—they’d be fun if they were framed all in a row. The illustrations are for The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Wrap these up with some Wes Anderson DVDs, and you have a perfectly cinematic gift!

Image courtesy of

Monday, June 13, 2011

Back Tomorrow…


Good morning, and happy Monday! Unfortunately, I am going to have to take a breather from blogging today—working all weekend with barely any sleep and then going straight into Monday is unsurprisingly exhausting! I am a bit behind on my gift research and just need a day to catch up. Thanks for understanding, and see you tomorrow!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Father’s Day: Parking Snark

There are a few things that my father was very serious about teaching me when I was growing up:

1. How to properly use a hammer and other basic carpentry tools. This started when I was about five and extended into my adult life, such as when he gave me a very elaborate tool kit when I turned 20.

2. How to play golf. He was also very serious about not being the one actually  teaching me, so we used to take father-daughter golf lessons.

3. How to parallel park. When I got my learner’s permit, he made it very clear that I was not to reinforce that nasty little stereotype about Asian female drivers. He made me practice parallel parking for weeks leading up to my driver’s license road test. Was it actually on the test? No. But no matter.

Anyway, that last one makes me think that my dad would enjoy these funny little cards from Jack Spade:

2011.06.10 - Nice Parking

{“Nice Parking” cards, $20}

These little cards (25 in a pack, measuring 2”x3” each) are white cards with orange type, and the cheeky message of “Nice Parking” makes these hilarious to leave under the windshields of badly-parked cars. Or, alternatively, under the windshields of well-parked cars. Though the person might think you are being sarcastic when you are not, so perhaps it’s best to just stick to the snark.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Father’s Day: The Art of Shaving

When I was a little girl, I used to hang out with my dad and watch him shave before work in the morning. He’s pretty old school in terms of not using an electric razor, so I distinctly remember the smell of shaving cream and the sound of the razor blades scraping off his stubble. (Once, he let me cover my chin in shaving cream and I mimicked his actions using a comb. My mom came in and thought I was actually shaving my face with a razor—she completely freaked).

Anyway, this shaving kit from The Art of Shaving makes me think of my father and those mornings we used to spend together:

2011.06.09 - Shaving

{The Art of Shaving gift set, $100}

This gift set comes with high-quality pre-shave oil, shaving cream, after-shave balm, and a pure badger black shaving brush (not necessarily a honey badger, but badger nonetheless). It’s unscented and apparently guarantees a perfect shave. Dad just needs to add his own razor, and he’ll be on his way to a smooth face for that important meeting at the office!

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Father’s Day: Meme Geek

I will preface this gift suggestion with the statement that if I gave the below item to my own father, he would NOT get it. However, now that I am of the age where my peers are starting their own families and having babies, I am confident that there are some fathers out there who are very aware of this Internet meme:

   image   image

{Honey Badger Don’t Give a Shit T-Shirt, $25}

That’s right, I went there. I’m badass like the honey badger. The link above will also take you to a bunch of other hilarious honey badger shirts as well. Anyway, I feel like any dad (or person, for that matter) who has watched the honey badger video would get a good laugh out of this gift. And for those of you who have no clue what I am referring to, please watch the video below. Become one of those almost-9-million viewers.

Honey Badger loves The Present Perfect.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Father’s Day: Crumpled Up

The Father’s Day gift that pretty much every child has made for dear old dad has got to be the paperweight. I remember thinking I was beyond clever when I made a clay paperweight with holes for pencils, so my father could have this sort of porcupine-looking situation on his desk. Needless to say, I don’t think that my genius paperweight was every fully utilized to the extent that I intended.

However! The MoMA store offers Father’s Day Paperweight Version 2.0, and it’s something that even the most design-minded father would appreciate:

2011.06.07 - MoMA Paperweight

{Crumpled Legal Pad paperweight, $28}

Fun, no? And useful. Best of all, it comes in various designs that are suitable for different dads based on their professions, such as finance whiz, architect, and musician/composer. I just might use this one as a chance to redeem myself from the horrific handmade paperweight attempt from years ago!

Image courtesy of

Monday, June 6, 2011

Father’s Day: Texan BBQ

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope y’all (I’ve been assimilating here in Nashville; can you tell?) had a wonderful weekend. I had a positively magical 40 hours in New York City. In addition to squeezing in a total of 12 miles of running along the Hudson River, the weekend was packed with catching up with friends both old and new-ish, boutique shopping, a facial at my favorite place in the city, eating lots of amazing food, and—most importantly—spending some quality time with my wonderful husband! Although I’ve convinced myself that Manhattan is not where I want to settle down or raise a family, I did find myself falling back in love with this city I called home for 8 years.

On another (and for the purposes of this blog, more important) note, today’s gift pick takes us far away from the streets of New York City… and to the rolling plains of Driftwood, Texas! Yes, my friends, I am talking about The Salt Lick. Luckily for all you Yankees (and, really, non-Austin-area-Texans), you can get their amazing meats delivered! With Father’s Day just around the corner (Sunday, June 19th) this grilling variety pack is perfect for a summer celebration of Dad.

Family Style Meats

{Family Style Dinner, $119.95}

This great gift pack includes: 4-5 pounds of smoked beef brisket, 2 racks of pork ribs, 2 rings of Hill Country sausage, and 1 bottle of original recipe Salt Lick Bar-B-Que sauce. Feeds about 10-12 people. When I traveled to Texas and ate at Salt Lick last year, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Moral of the story: don’t mess with Texas when it comes to matters of barbeque, because they seriously know what they are doing!

Image courtesy of

Friday, June 3, 2011

VHS: Very Handwritten Script…?

2011.06.03 - VHS Notebook

{VHS Notebook, $20.99}

As you can probably tell from the types of items I feature on my blog, I have a thing for creative stationery. HOW AWESOME is this VHS notebook? This 260-page notebook comes either ruled or blank, depending on your preferences. Measurements are 19 x 11 x 2.5 cm. Ideal for the favorite hipster in your life.

And… it’s the weekend! I am very excited to head to New York City with my husband for a couple of days. On the agenda: 8 mile race-training run  up the West Side Highway, relaxing on Governors Island, some shopping and blog-item-scoping, and fun meals with good friends!

On a side note, today is commencement for my fun second-year friends at MIT Sloan! Congratulations to all of you, and best of luck with your future endeavors!

What is everyone else doing this weekend?

Image courtesy of

Thursday, June 2, 2011


2011.06.02 - Egg Salt & Pepper

{Egg Salt & Pepper Shakers, $65}

If I could only eat ONE food for the rest of my life, I would choose eggs. I love eggs so much that my husband had to start limiting my daily egg consumption, because apparently 4 a day is not normal. Who knew?

So for very obvious reasons, I fell in love with this pair of salt and pepper shakers—and HOW CUTE is that nest? And the golden egg makes me think of the Veruca Salt scene in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. This totally beats any boring salt and pepper shakers on someone’s wedding registry. Love!

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Box of Bubbly

It’s June today, which means that the season of graduations and weddings is upon us. We all know what that means—celebrations call for champagne, and lots of it!

2011.06.01 - Champagne Box

{Champagne gift box, $68}

This understated kiri wood box comes with two hand-etched flutes and a space for your favorite bottle of bubbly (champagne not included). This would be a fun wedding gift— a pair of special champagne flutes are pretty common for weddings, but this unique (and re-usable) packaging would set this gift apart from the rest. I also can’t help thinking that it would be a very cute box to tote along for a romantic summer picnic. Let’s raise a glass to summer!

Image courtesy of

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