Interview with Dripkit Coffee Co-Founders Ilana Kruger and Kara Cohen

Modern life means facing decisions again and again. From what to wear to how to address a problem at work, the need to check yes or no is never-ending. Most choices are of the humdrum variety, but some forever change everything that comes after. In an ongoing series titled “All the Difference,” we ask women to think back on a pivotal moment that affected everything.

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The majority of modern co-founder stories have their starts in b-school or a single fruitful year of undergrad before pursuing the dream. Kara Cohen and Ilana Kruger, co-founders of Dripkit, a single-use drip coffee system funded on Kickstarter, tell a more colorful tale.

Both women had quit their real jobs and were looking to put down roots in New York City. Cohen was living in San Francisco, saw Kruger’s Craigslist post looking for a roommate, and sent off a note.

“I wanted to ask a seemingly silly question that would give me really good insight into someone’s personality,” Kruger remembered. “I wanted to live with someone bold, creative, and kind, so I thought about Disney characters. Everyone knows them, and they are each strong and different.” So, she asked every potential roomies to name the character they most resembled. Cohen was more than game. “I loved the question because it was a welcome break from the common requests: hobbies, dishwashing habits, etc. It gave me a chance to think and get creative,” she said. Her best and final answer? Aladdin‘s Genie (“Because you’ll never have a friend like me”—ba-dum-tiss).

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‘Kruger, left, with Cohen in their apartment in 2011.

“We ended up having a three-hour Skype chat that left me with no reservations about showing up on her doorstep with my bags at 6 A.M. after a red-eye. That connection made me feel confident enough to take a risk to move across the country, alone, with no job,” Cohen said. From there, a real friendship started blossoming into the kind of simpatico situation that translates well to a business partnership too. “We were an instant team. We started making things together all the time: videos, piñatas, paintings, songs. We’d throw imaginatively themed dinner parties,” Kruger said.

“Our friendship grew out of not just thinking of crazy ideas, but actually making them,” Cohen added. Living situations shifted and the two stopped being roommates, but that didn’t kill the synergy. “Even after we weren’t living together we’d collaborate on each other’s projects. I would help Ilana with branding and social media, and she would help me with building websites and developing sales strategies. Eventually, we ended up working at the same company, and coworkers saw that when they paired us up on a project, we both performed at our best.”

Our friendship grew out of not just thinking of crazy ideas, but actually making them.

In the winter of 2016, a Facetime gripe about how hard it can be to find a decent cup of coffee led to Dripkit. “I started strategizing ways to solve the problem and when Ilana got back [from traveling] a month later, she immediately jumped in,” Cohen explained. “No discussion. Within a week or two it was clear that we were business partners. In a way, we’ve always been.”

“It seemed like everyone we spoke to would say, ‘I need that,’ including customers we’d never thought of, like nurses and flight attendants,” Kruger added. Those unofficial focus groups were all the encouragement they needed. The two started immediately, diving in to research and prototype development.

Dripkit, Cohen and Kruger’s way-more-stylish alternative to instant coffee.

Courtesy of Dripkit

Now, in November of this year, Dripkit will start shipping. You can pre-order your “pocket-sized pour over” here at a special rate: two boxes of 10 for $25 (the regular price for one = $25).

Fall Home Decor Accessories – How to Refresh Your Apartment

Welcome to “The Perfect,” ELLE.com’s weekly roundup, where we lay out exactly what you’ll need for the perfect outfit, shopping list, Saturday night, or whatever it may be. In a shopping landscape where the options are endless, consider it a complete snapshot of must-haves.

Whether shoebox city apartment or two-car-garage house, your home is the hub where you tackle so much (relaxing, working, and everything in between). As we head into fall, give it the same accessorizing consideration you do yourself, adding or subtracting pieces to make your existing space feel new. Here, Elle Décor site director Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson guest edits her favorite new-season picks.

Are My Mid-Twenties Too Early for Me to Be Buying an Apartment?

Dear E. Jean: I’m 25 and lucky enough to have been given a not-insignificant amount of money by my family. I have a great job that pays my bills, and I live a pretty normal life—my friends know I’m comfortable, but they don’t know how comfortable. I’ve been looking for a new apartment, and I’m considering buying instead of renting. It’s financially feasible for me—I can easily afford the down payment with the money I’ve inherited, and a mortgage payment would be just slightly more than what I pay in rent.

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I want to put down roots, have my own place, and be able to really feel at home, not to mention make a great investment. But I’m worried that this will alienate me from my friends and boyfriend, who are in their midtwenties and just making ends meet. I’m also worried that 25 is too young to be making such a huge commitment. Should I buy a place of my own or put it off for a few years? —Big Decision

Miss Big, My Begonia: The tragedy of your real-estate dilemma is not that you’re too young to buy an apartment, but that you’re too old. You could have started investing even sooner. Buy it!

You hail from a famous American family. (I looked you up.) You have rule-breaking in your blood. Your friends and boyfriend already know you’re well off and still love you, so just let Auntie Eeee know where to send the housewarming gift.

Man Ghosts His Girlfriend And She Becomes His Boss

Ask A Manager is always a good resource for sticky workplace questions, but some days there is such a gem of a question that we all need to quit whatever we were working on and fall deep into its enticing spiral. Today is one such day, and it is brought to you by the letter K for Karma.

The question comes from a man, let’s call him Bronathan, who ghosted his ex a decade ago. Boo, but fine, we’ve all done irresponsible stuff in relationships before. Please nobody ask anyone what I was like in love 10 years ago. Anyway, Bronathan is writing because PLOT TWIST his ex, Sylvia, is now going to be his director at work.

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Awkward, but not horrible. We’re all adults, right? Well, that would be the case, except Bronathan was with Sylvia for THREE YEARS. AND THEY LIVED TOGETHER FOR TWO. AND HE LITERALLY MOVED OUT WITHOUT TELLING HER WHILE SHE WAS ON WINTER BREAK. Here is how he puts it:

Over the Christmas break, while she was visiting her family, I simply moved out and left the country. I took advantage of the fact that I accepted a job in other country and did not tell her about it. I simply wanted to avoid being untangled in a break-up drama. Sylvia was rather emotional and became obsessed with the relationship, tracking me down, even causing various scenes with my parents and friends.”

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Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that he wrote that. He wrote that! He just sat down and typed that like it was an unfortunate, but not utterly baffling thing to do to a person. “Rather emotional” YEAH YOU THINK? If you have been living with someone for two years and they just disappear without any trace, yes you would probably be emotional because you’d assume they were kidnapped or dead! Not that they were like, “hmm I love her but I don’t LOVE her, you know?” and left the country.

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Ask A Manager’s Alison Green recognizes that there is no way Bronathan comes out on top here. “Normally I’m a fan of people putting aside personal emotions in order to conduct themselves professionally, but I don’t even know what that would look like for Sylvia in this situation,” she writes. “She’s most likely going to be shocked and horrified when she finds out that you work at her school, and that she’s supposed to manage you.”

Sylvia, if you’re out there, energy of this week’s eclipse shines on you, and you may do with Bronathan what you like. If a decade of growth and acceptance allow you to work with Bronathan with no problem, you are all the better for it and may the spirits bless and keep you. But if you want to spend your entire career rubbing your success in his face, then the righteous anger of hundreds of commenters will guide your tongue.

Anyway, this is why you don’t ghost! Also, Sylvia, please call us.

Are There Any Places Sex Doesn’t Happen?

Dear E. Jean:I’ve made some mistakes in my life and would like to avoid situations where sex usually ends up occurring. Can you think of any places where sex doesn’t happen?

Yes. On the medal stand at the Olympics when you’re singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and, if you choose the wrong person, in your bedroom after you’re married.

This letter is from the E. Jean archive.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Don’t Compromise in Love

Intent on making 2017 your Best Year Ever? We can help with that, thanks to our 2017 Coach of the Month series. For August, Senator Barbara Boxer, author of The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life, shares lessons learned over a lifetime in public service. This week, she reveals an early heartbreak and the lesson it taught her.

My mother taught me that it wasn’t important to have a huge number of “friends” around you.

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“If you have only one friend, and she or he is truly a friend, count yourself lucky,” she said. “What’s important is to make sure those you confide in, those you spend your time with, those you care about, truly care about you too.”

I remember a particular case in point. In high school I was stuck on this guy named Oscar. He was an unusual choice for me: a foreign-born student from Eastern Europe. I knew that he had a very troubled life and that somehow was appealing to me. So I asked my parents if I could invite my new “boyfriend” over for dinner.

“Mom,” I said, “I don’t think he’s ever eaten steak in his life!”

Food was always a way to show affection for my family and my mother was pleased to share our bounty. My father was less enthusiastic, but he always was when I told him I had a boyfriend.

Let me be clear: we were far from rich or even in the middle of the middle class. Anyway, Oscar started to come over on a regular basis and began eating us out of house and home. I loved it until he started acting weird. He became jealous if I even talked to another boy and made fun of the fact that I was co-chairman of the Boosters, a group that cheered on our not-so-winning high school basketball team.

“Why do you care about this silliness?” he said. “You are spoiled rotten by your parents.”

Now maybe he was right, but my life was warm and I was surrounded by love, and I didn’t understand why he felt that I was being spoiled. I began to doubt myself and was having a very hard time dealing with his criticism and cynicism. Through it all I still liked him, but wound up confused and mad at myself. So, you guessed it, I took it to my mom.

She had a simple solution.

“If any person in your life doesn’t really care about you, hurts you, especially if you have shown them love, then walk away and walk away fast,” she said. “Why do you need it? What good does it do you? I know you feel bad for Oscar because his life isn’t as good as yours, but if your warm family life makes him jealous, well, that’s his problem. He doesn’t understand that there’s a big difference between being spoiled and being loved.”

There she was again: giving me advice I would have had to pay an analyst thousands for if I couldn’t follow her wisdom. I told Oscar we should break up because I was too young to have just one boyfriend. He didn’t argue, just looked sullen, as if he expected it. He walked away. As he did, I felt as if an enormous weight had been lifted from me. Maybe it was lifted from him too.

So, yes, find good people who truly care about you, give them your love and support, give them respect, but expect it back. Otherwise, take a hike. Get away. Find real love, real friendship.

No wonder when I was eleven I wrote the following rhyme to my mother. I found it in her jewel box after she died:

Ill always love my mother. She is so dear to me.

And when a good thing happens

Shesalwaysthere to see.

She makesdelicioussuppers

That I just love to eat

And when she tucks me in at night

It really is a treat.

And so when you give out medals

My mom deservesthe prize. She is a wonderful person

In everybody’s eyes.

Excerpted from The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life (Hachette Books), by Barbara Boxer.

Everything You Need to Make Last-Minute Eclipse Plans

In case you haven’t heard, there’s an eclipse coming on Monday, August 21st. If you live anywhere in the continental United States, you’ll be able to see at least a partial eclipse from your home, but to get the full experience you’ll need to be inside a narrow path called the “path of totality,” where the moon will completely block out the sun.

So if you can, you should definitely try to make a trip into that path of totality for yourself. It’ll likely be the best chance you’ll ever get to watch an eclipse in your lifetime. It’s a little last minute but still more than possible to take in the eclipse the right way. So if you’re just making plans now, he’s what you should know before you hop in the car and start driving.

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The first thing you’ll need to decide is where to go. There are twelve states in the path of totality, and each one offers something unique. Check out our state-by-state guide to help you pick the best viewing spot.

And once you’re there, you’ll need some special eye equipment. Even during an eclipse, you can’t just stare at the sun without hurting your eyes. You’ll need to buy some eclipse glasses, or a pair of eclipse binoculars if you want to get fancy. You could also build a homemade pinhole camera to view the sun safely without spending money.

If you want to take some photos of the event, your standard camera equipment won’t be enough. There’s a lot of preparation you’ll need to do, so be sure to check out our guide to photographing the solar eclipse.

But most importantly of all: Go out and see it if you can. Yes, it’s last minute, but if you’re in driving time of the totality, you can make it! Even if you can’t a partial eclipse is a heck of a thing to see. While you’re there though, make sure you enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event. For maximum viewing pleasure, here’s our list of eclipse viewing tips. But here’s perhaps the most important tip of them all: relax and have fun, and just watch.

Learning to Feel Powerful

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The first time I ever felt powerful, I was five years old and had a mouthful of magnets. I had seen an older kid in the neighborhood wearing braces, and for some misguided reason I decided that if I, too, wore braces, I would be special and metallic and, somehow, powerful. So I took a handful of small magnets from my toy box and stuffed them into my mouth and proudly went up to my mother, saying in a garbled voice, “Look, look, braces!” She told me to spit them out right away, afraid that I would swallow them.

Fade to my next childhood power moment. It was first grade, and my teacher called me up to her desk to have me dictate stories to her, which she wrote down far more quickly and neatly than my handwriting (which was generally billboard-sized) would allow. I remember standing at her desk free-associating a long, winding story about a child astronaut while she recorded it all with a very sharp No. 2 Ticonderoga. I stared at that pencil as it ran so rapidly and thrillingly across the page.

That same year, I was eating cherry cheesecake in a suburban diner with my father, and I took note of the woman sitting behind the cash register, which happened to be up a couple of steps, so that she seemed practically monarchical as she looked down upon everyone in the room.

“That’s what I want to do for a job,” I told my father.

“What?” he asked, looking up from his Sanka.

“What she does.” I pointed to the cashier, imagining a life spent behind the shiny curved hump of a cash register. What authority I would wield; what small, individually wrapped toothpicks in a basket I would offer to all who appeared before me.

Children are generally on a dedicated quest for power. They stew in their powerlessness, being told what to eat, when to sleep, what to wear. (That denim jumper with the many little buckles? My mother’s choice, not mine.) Looking back on some of the moments when I felt a ripple or outright surge of power — whether these were moments of fantasy or ones that were grounded in actual accomplishment — I see that what they all had in common was the significant presence of equipment, props, things. It’s as if kids innately understand that because they’re small and untried and don’t get much say, they need things around to help fortify them, perhaps filling their mouths with metal and their heads with excitement or even grandiosity.

Another power moment came when I was eight. I posed for a photograph holding a guitar and pretending to be a male teen idol. I honestly do look cute and androgynous in the photo; my hair is in my eyes, as if I were posing for Tiger Beat magazine (“In this issue: Meg’s fave foods — and hint, one of them is chocolate!”), and my hand is poised over the strings of the guitar, as if I knew how to play.

Meg’s new book will be released next spring.

But the only person in our house who played the guitar was my mother, whose specialty was The Joan Baez Songbook. Sometimes, from my bedroom at night, I could hear her in the living room, fingerpicking as she sang: “The water is wide … I cannot get o’er.” My own fantasy of power, at least according to that photo of me, involved being not Joan Baez but a hot young boy playing the Westbury Music Fair (perhaps along with his slightly less photogenic brothers). The teen idol holding his guitar in mid-laugh, as if he were sharing a private joke with his fans, seemed more exciting at the time than the grave melancholy I saw in Joan Baez, at least as channeled by my nearly-40-year-old mother.

Then, inevitably, I got a taste of a darker kind of power. In seventh grade, I very briefly fell in with a (relatively) “bad” crowd. They were consistently mean to everyone, and yet sitting among them at the table for the week we spent together, I felt a kind of ambivalent, cruel, reflected power. In that short time, our shared lunch table became my equipment, my prop. (My tenure with them ended after one of them sent me a note that read “You’d better give me a surprise party, you bitch” and the lunch lady intercepted it.)

I was thinking about all of this recently, having just completed a new novel, The Female Persuasion, that tries to examine ideas about power, in particular female power. My protagonist, a shy young woman who becomes the protégée of a powerful older one, is frustrated by her own inability to ask for what she needs, the way so many people around her seem to be able to do. As she gets older, she wonders what it will take to make her feel she has the right to assert herself and feel strong.

For me, leaving childhood and growing older, the moments that resembled power started to come more frequently and easily. They happened when I felt I was most like myself: when I was lost in writing, when I was deeply reading a book I loved, when I was giving a lecture. (Even when I was playing the guitar, which I finally learned to do, and Joan Baez songs were part of my repertoire.) The power I felt then came from mastery, and any objects that happened to be in my midst didn’t feel as consequential.

But I did experience an exception to this recently. In January at the Women’s March in DC, there were all those signs, and of course all those pink hats. When you master something, you may not need objects front and center; you feel like you already have everything you need. But when you’re part of a common fight, a common urgency, you need all the help you can get. Our hats were objects, symbols, shields, and they remain inextricable from everyone’s memory of that day. Things, when they’re needed, resonate. Every once in a while, even now, I can occasionally still taste a metallic trace of magnets in my mouth.   

Meg Wolitzer is a novelist whose books include The Interestings and The Wife. She recently edited The Best American Short Stories 2017.

This Wine Train Takes You Through America’s Top Vineyards

Napa Valley Wine Tours has made drinking on public transportation just about the classiest thing you could do with your Sunday afternoon.

The Northern California railroad track, which was built in 1864 and converted into a wine train in 1989, runs from Napa to St. Helena and back, bringing passengers to famous wineries and serving gourmet multi-course meals along the way, all in the spirit of early travel.

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Passengers can dress up for a Murder Mystery themed dinner ride, visit the Castello di Amorosa on The Castle Winery tour, or impress a date with the Romance on the Rails package. The company has more than a dozen different tours, each of which starts with a glass of wine or bubbly (as long as you’re over 21) and continues with plenty more delicious food and drinks.

Winery options range from traveling to a single winery or several – including Raymond Vineyards, Beringer Winery, and Robert Mondavi Winery – while private “Meet the Maker” tours bring local winemakers onboard for a four-hour “pairing adventure.”

While airplane food today is notoriously bad, these trains will make you rethink what can be done in a tiny kitchen. Menu options include lemon ricotta ravioli, heirloom tomato gazpacho, and brown butter seared cornbread, and most have a suggested wine pairing.

The company uses railroad cars that have been restored to their early-20th century charm, and were built to showcase California’s stunning natural landscapes on the train. The Vista Dome railcar features an exceptionally spectacular view, and was one of the first 10 full-length domed railcars built.

The train has three onboard kitchens, with dozens of chefs preparing each meal by hand. Trips generally last between three and six hours, and start at $146 per person for a trip on the Gourmet Express.

While the tours are’t exactly cheap, you’re definitely paying for the experience, and the more expensive trips include entrance and wine tastings at the wineries you visit. Trains run every day, and you can find the various schedules on Napa Valley’s website.

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h/t Thrillist.