The inspirational journal of rising NYC jewelry designer, entrepreneur, violinist, and pastry chef, Yumi Chen.

NYC Jewelry Designer, Violinist, Pastry Chef, Small Business Owner, Free-Spirit, Positive Thinker!

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Archive for September, 2008

Look To The Rainbow

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Sometimes you just want something a little light and fluffy. A little color never hurts either. Especially as we move into the dreary days of fall and winter (I already miss the summer sun!). So to brighten my rainy day, I made my way over to The Bagel Basket on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. For the most part, this is your typical neighborhood joint, one that a friend introduced me to recently. But it can’t be easy to make it as a bagel shop in New York, where bagels are a dime a dozen (although they actually cost more than that). Everyone seems to claim that they are “New York’s Best Bagel”. But what the Bagel Basket can undisputedly claim is that it is the home of the Rainbow Bagel.

That’s right. A white-flour bagel that has been dyed with at least three different colors, making it more or less a rainbow. I bought six of them.

The owner of the Bagel Basket, Elliot, perhaps slightly surprised that a grown woman was buying six rainbow bagels, came over to talk to me about his business and his bagels. Apparently, he created the idea (or actually, his son did) as something fun for kids. Like most art projects, however, it turns out to be very labor and cost intensive. He explained that in order to create the rainbow effect, they have to make a separate batch of dough for each color, and then fold them all together before rolling and baking the bagel. And no, the different colors don’t have different flavors; it just tastes like a plain bagel. Although, I was pleasantly surprised by how soft and fluffy it was… in a weird way, it made me happy, taking me back to my childhood perhaps. A small part of me wanted to get up and dance to be perfectly honest.

Do the patrons, mostly kids, undeterred by a little dye in their food, appreciate all this effort? Hard to say. But the bagels have been selling strong for five years. And it’s pretty much the closest we can come here in Manhattan to seeing a rainbow on a rainy day.

The Bagel Basket
90th and Amsterdam
closed on Saturdays

n: of or relating to fashion

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

n. : of or relating to clothes

It’s no secret that I am living in the fashion capital of the country, which, by the way, remains the largest market for fashion in the world (so says The New York Times) despite our present shortcomings as Americans in many other arenas. Proof is in the abundance of boutiques up and down Madison Avenue, the stores-cum-galleries inundating the meatpacking district, and the ever popular Fashion Week that temporarily morphs midtown into a regular Milan every fall. Yet, as a recent article by Guy Treblay in the Times points out:

“The D.I.Y. ethos prevalent among young consumers has led to an overall relaxation of the boundaries of style. Given that a 12-year-old with a MySpace page … can become an instant authority on fashion, is there truly a need for the dictators of the front row, the editors who once chose the stars?”

Likewise, it seems that fashion is starting to garner attention and earn respect on the streets and in the everyday lives of New Yorkers, in a way it always has in Paris or Milan. Someone made an accusation recently on a late night show that “Americans don’t know how to dress”, but perhaps that person is just not looking closely enough.
Take a lesson from Scott Schuman, aka The Sartorialist (No, this is not actually a word. It is a spin on ‘sartorial’: of or relating to clothes). Apparently I have been missing out, because Schuman has been giving credit where fashionable credit is due on his blog,, for three years, earning him an accolade as one of Time’s Top 100 Design Influencers.
“I thought I could shoot people on the street the way designers looked at people, and get and give inspiration to lots of people in the process,” Schuman says, “My only strategy when I began The Sartorialist was to try and shoot style in a way that I knew most designers hunted for inspiration. Rarely do they look at the whole outfit as a yes or no but they try and look for the abstract concepts of color, proportion, pattern mixing or mixed genres.”
Schuman posts exquisite photographs of people he sees on the street and lets the fashion world (or perhaps just the young consumer world) flood the images with comments and critiques. The comments are hit or miss, but the photos are some of the most stunning I have ever seen, no doubt largely because they are of real people caught in the middle of their real lives. There is an energy to that which cannot be replicated on a runway or in a studio. At the same time, his photos have the effect of reminding me of the incredible mix of people with whom I share this city, reminding me why I love to live here, at a time when that’s not always easy to do.

* photo credit by Scott Schuman *

Philos (modern Greek: love) – adelphos (:brother)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

It’s nice to be back in Philadelphia, where I spent my first three years as a professional jewelry designer. The city’s neighborhoods are incredibly diverse, but overall it is on the upswing, much like what New York went through in the early ‘90s. In 2005, it was rated the sixth most dangerous city, earning itself the nickname “Kill-a-delphia” (you have to admit, it’s pretty clever, albeit still frightening). Philadelphia is like the epitome of “take the good with the bad”, “the rough with the smooth”: playing host to what are essentially our nation’s greatest treasures, yet masking the crack deals going down across town.

Shecky’s Girls Night Out, naturally, is not held anywhere near this action. Instead, we are put up quite fashionably (pun intended) in the Crystal Tea Room on the ninth floor of the Wanamaker Building. Located right near City Hall in Center City, which falls within the original city limits, the Wanamaker Building is now home to Macy’s and gives Herald Square a run for its money. After all, it does have the world’s largest operational pipe organ, the Wanamaker Organ, which is stretched out through five floors of the department store. Beat that, New York.

Wanamaker’s (named after John Wanamaker, the founder of the store and a great retail innovator back in 1870) was the first department store in Philadelphia, and probably in the country. It was originally inside the renovated structure of the Pennsylvania Railroad station, and then in 1910, Wanamaker replaced it with a brand new building, designed in a lavish Florentine style. The Crystal Tea Room used to be a restaurant (the first restaurant to be inside of a department store) and is now a private banquet room/ convention center.

As the “Girls” mingle and browse beneath these enormous crystal chandeliers, there seems to be a lot of ‘sisterly love’ going on- forget the brothers.