eShakti Review 2

The most popular thing on my blog, by far is my review of eShakti’s products and service. Every day, I get a large number of visitors here just looking for information on eShakti, the blogger-courting custom clothing company in India. I had a not-amazing experience with them almost two years ago, and this seemed to be in line with with what most other regular people (i.e. not fashion bloggers with many people reading their thoughts on the company) experienced.

Somehow, I guess because my name is on their mailing list, I’m part of their “customer panel.” Periodically I’ll be invited to take an online survey about some of their upcoming styles. A few months ago, I was surprised to receive a $100 credit to thank me for my participation! I checked out the site a couple times, but nothing really appealed to me. Finally, over the 4th of July holiday, I found the On the Dotted Line dress, which I figured I could customize to the point where I’d like it, so I went ahead and made the purchase. Thanks to the credit, I only owed tax and shipping, which meant I paid less than $20 for a fully custom dress.

Pleasant surprise #1: eShakti now accepts PayPal! This means they don’t see my credit card information, which alleviates my concern over the number getting into the wrong hands, which happened last time. I placed my order and settled in for a long wait for delivery. They are still promising two week delivery times, but my previous orders (and everyone else’s, it seems), had taken so much longer.

Pleasant surprise #2: I got a shipping notification on 7/16, ten days after I placed the order. This is still kind of a long time, compared to most online shopping sites, but considering that they are making something for you from scratch, I think it’s pretty reasonable. They still ship via DHL, and I tracked the progress of my package online from India to Germany… Then there was something about a delay… I didn’t have very high hopes.

Pleasant surprise #3: DHL called, texted, and I think also e-mailed me on Thursday night, the night before it was delivered, to let me know that the package was coming and a signature would be required. It turned out that I was actually working from home on Friday, so I could have just signed for it, but they also indicated that a signed note could be left at the door and they would deliver the package without a signature, so just to be safe, I left the note. That DHL delivery driver must have been very quiet, because I didn’t hear a thing, but when I looked outside that afternoon, there was a small, flat box – about a 1-foot by 1-foot square – waiting for me!

Pleasant surprise #4: I’m sure that was due to the material used for this dress, but it came out of its tiny box looking perfect, no ironing needed! The others I’ve ordered have been cotton, and had fuller skirts, and required a lot of steam magic to look reasonable after unpacking from eShakti’s notoriously tight shipping boxes. I also received (another) tape measure, this time in a little gray jersey pouch, as well as a form to use for returns. I immediately tried the dress on.

Don’t mind my hair, I’ve been rocking the “Flaccid Ponytail” this summer. Also… pockets!!

Pleasant surprise #5: I really like this dress! It fits perfectly, which I expected, since I gave them all my measurements. But I’ve ordered other eShakti dresses that fit great, but you can’t really move your arms. I’m sure it’s because I went with the sleeveless option, but I can move and bend and raise my arms, all with no problem. I love the pattern, it’s more unique than the standard black dresses that I have in my closet. The only thing I’m not really happy about with the fit is the length. In the customization options, I specified “knee length,” but how do they know where my knees are? My knees are obviously higher than they should be, as this is not the first time this has happened. I wish they would let you specify length of the skirt, from the waist.

In conclusion, I am pretty happy with the eShakti experience this time around. Will I continue shopping there? Sure… if they keep tossing those gift certificates my way.

Pleasant Surprises

Today was a day of potential disappointments and pleasant surprises:

  • While cleaning in the living room, I found that a cat had coughed up a hairball on the back of the sofa. I hadn’t noticed before because it was kind of behind some pillows, so it was all dried and crusty on there.
    BUT, thanks to the magic of microfiber, I was able to clean it right up and you can’t even tell!
  • I started the dishwasher, and it didn’t sound like any water was coming out, I just smelled a burning plastic smell. Even though the dishwasher is not a necesity, it sure is nice, and this isn’t really a convenient time for it to break. It didn’t look like there was anything on the heating element, or anything blocking where the water comes out. I found the manual and called the Sears repair number on the back. They were able to give me an appointment later that afternoon. Then I realized I hadn’t given my address, so I called back and yeah, they had the wrong address, so I corrected it (I thought), and started researching the cost of new dishwashers so I could compare it to the cost of the potential repair (including $75 for the guy to just come look at it). The repair guy called me pretty much right in the middle of his time window, and he still had the wrong address.
    BUT, I gave him the correct address and it turned out I was right around the corner from him, so he was happy. He got here and found that apparently the detergent pod I used got stuck under the little float/bobber in the dishwasher, so the machine thought it was already full of water and didn’t fill. He just popped it back out and everything was working fine! He didn’t even charge me for the appointment, just went home for a cool beer :o)
  • A dress I ordered from eShakti arrived, and I braced myself for another bad experience.
    BUT, not only did I get a custom dress for a great price, it shipped in record (for eShakti) time, and it fits perfectly! My updated review of eShakti will be my next blog post, so stay tuned!

Things I Ate in Philly

GG and I made two food-based trips into Philadelphia recently. On Sunday, we cashed in some LivingSocial vouchers I’d bought to take a tour with Philadelphia Chocolate Tours. I am not a major chocolate fan, but the deal was good and I thought it sounded like a neat idea. I was already familiar with most of the stops on the tour, but figured we’d get some inside information on some of these shops and on the city in general. Of course, Sunday was pouring rain. Our tour group was pretty large, with 15 people, consisting of visitors from the far suburbs and recent transplants to the area. Our tour guide, Jeff, was very! energetic! and excited! about chocolate! We first introduced ourselves and named our favorite type of chocolate, and learned a few facts about the history of chocolate in the region (though all the questions our tour guide asked, my GG and I were able to answer right away). Then we headed off on the tour.

The tour started at the Reading Terminal Market, where we each received a chocolate chip cookie at the 4th Street Cookie Company. I’ve eaten many a cookie from here, and we didn’t learn anything about the company or the Reading Terminal. GG chimed in that he was always impressed that every cookie he’s had from here was warm, despite the fact that there were no warmers in the display (i.e., they’re always fresh from the oven). The shop owner looked at him like he’d spoiled some great secret (they really do have warmers?!), and then agreed that yes, they are always pulling out fresh cookies. The second stop was also at Reading Terminal, the Pennsylvania General Store, where we each got a Wilbur Bud and literally a crumb of some kind of chocolate bark. The third stop was interesting to me because I wasn’t aware of it: Marcie Blaine, a chocolate shop inside a boutique called Verde. They had a lot of unique flavors, many of which I would have loved to try, but instead we received small samples of yet another chocolate bark with nuts and pretzels. We ended up buying a couple additional pieces of chocolate to try (the Smoked Bacon one was amazing, but at $2 a piece, it better be!). Next we went to Teuscher’s, famous Swiss chocolate, inside the Bellevue. This was the most interesting stop, because the girl working there had a lot of information to share, but the shop was so small and it was so hot with all of us crowded in there, I could tell everyone was uncomfortable. She actually turned down the thermostat while she was talking, I bet she thought the chocolate would start to melt. Our final stop was Capogiro gelato, where I have also been many times. We didn’t really learn anything about Capogiro or gelato, but we did sample 4 chocolate flavors (everyone passing around a cup and taking a sample with a small spoon). Afterward, the guide accepted tips and everyone split up. Luckily, it had mostly stopped raining by this point, but we had a long, humid hike back to our car at the starting point.

I would definitely have been disappointed if I had paid full price, or had I really been a chocolate lover. It might have been fun if it was a group of friends (they apparently do a lot of bachelorette parties and similar events), because we probably would have enjoyed hanging out and shopping together. As it was, it was an awkward group of strangers who never really mingled and mostly tried to stay out of each others’ way. Our guide did a good job, but we didn’t really learn anything new. It seems from their web site that they hire mostly actors as tour guides, rather than experts on Philadelphia and/or chocolate. Having actual subject matter experts, rather than people who can follow the script, would probably make for a more interesting tour.

Two days later, on a rainy Tuesday, we were back in the city to have dinner at Tria. You may remember Tria from when we did Cheese 101 earlier this year. We still hadn’t gotten to the actual restaurant, so since we’d both been busy with travel and projects and hadn’t had a lot of time to spend together, GG thought it would be nice to finally try it out! Plus, it was the day after the 11th anniversary of our first date :o) The restaurant is small and they don’t take reservations, but we figured we wouldn’t have any trouble getting a seat for an early dinner on a Tuesday. Wrong! The place was packed and noisy. GG added our names to a list and we waited around in the vestibule for a little while before moving to a bar seat and then finally getting a table. Luckily, this gave us plenty of time to examine the menu, so we knew exactly what we wanted to order.

We decided to get a bunch of small plates, and then of course a cheese board. For himself, GG picked spicy crab-stuffed peppers and a lamb sausage with white beans, peppers, and mint-feta sauce. (I don’t really do lamb or sausage, but tried the beans and peppers with the mint sauce, it was very good!) For myself, I chose roasted beets with feta and pistachio herbed ricotta bruschetta with lavender honey – both were awesome. And then I made a kind of last-minute decision and also ordered us the truffled egg toast with fontina fontal, just because it sounded interesting. It was amazing, and I’m seeing after the fact that just about every Yelp review seems to rave about it, so good choice!

Then they brought out our cheeses, and at that point I was beginning to think maybe we’d made a bad decision in ordering so much food. If we go there again, I would probably do one fewer small plate and/or one fewer cheese. But we ended up with four cheeses, which they paired with four different condiments: a brie paired with a truffle paste and Reisling-Washed Sawmill Sleeper with Alagash-soaked cherries (my choices), and a gouda with beet jelly and Montgomery’s Cheddar with apricot honey (GG’s choices). As we learned at Cheese 101, Tria’s cheese prices are maybe a little high, but you get a much bigger portion than you do on most other cheese boards. So big that, for once, I did not finish all my cheese. Yes, GG had to help me with the brie (begrudgingly). The Alagash cherries were amazing with the washed-rind cheese, but I wonder if they didn’t have a little more alcohol in them than expected, because on the way home I was a little giggly and weird (which delighted GG).

Overall, I was really impressed with Tria and the service was great, but I would take away points for the ambiance – crowded and very loud (not just the people, but the music). I would go back, but make sure it’s at a slow time of day.