Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's talk about fitness.

Alright, guys.  I have fallen off the fitness bandwagon.  My pants are tight and I am at a weight where I refuse to buy new ones because I am not going to settle in here.


I have found that my fitness preferences tend to swing around pretty drastically every six months to a year, and the things that I used to love doing no longer motivate me the same way.  I'm not going to Crossfit as regularly as I used to, and I am biking less since the weather became frigid (and since I bought a car).  I still will sometimes go for a run, but the shorter days leave me less time to do this in the daylight, when I prefer to be out.

My firm recently announced that it would give all associates $195 towards a monthly gym membership.  I could use this money for a 9 class per month Crossfit membership ($165 --- I KNOW), or I could use it to join an actual gym with a variety of (sadly, non-Crossfit) classes.  I'm leaning towards the latter for now, since I'm feeling like a need some variety in my life.  Plus, since I seem to enjoy driving around, I could drive to the gym to get my sweat on.

So help me out here:

  1. What do you guys do for exercise in the winter?  
  2. Do you belong to a gym?  If so, what do you think are the most important things I should be considering in deciding which gym to go to.
  3. If you live in DC, are there any gyms/studios that I absolutely must check out before I sign paperwork somewhere?  Where is the best place for me to spend my $195/mo?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dawwwwwww

Meet the new foster kittens!
 
 
Their names are Dust Bunny (gray female) and Caribou (orange male), but I call them Bunny and Boo.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Just waaaaay too much cuteness, am I right? These little ones are available for adoption through the Washington Humane Society! (My last two foster cats were adopted two weeks ago! The only thing that eased the pain of separation was immediately taking in two more cats :-D)
 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Sponsored Post: Because I Want a Sodastream

I spare you guys most of the sponsored post requests I receive, because who wants to read that stuff?  The exceptions are as follows:
  • Cold hard cash in exchange for a post about a product or service I have either used or personally believe in (e.g, Match.com)
  • A free product I like/want/believe in and think you guys would also like/want/believe in, in exchange for a post about said product (e.g, Nice Jewish Guys calendar)
This post about SodaStream falls into the latter category.  I love seltzer water and have been drinking it daily since I discovered it a few months into Weight Watchers in 2009-2010.  It has the fizzy, stomach-filling satisfaction of soda but without the calories or artificial sweeteners.  (The more I read about artificial sweeteners and diabetes, the more leery I am of them.  See, e.g., here.)  I mostly drink plain soda water, and if I want to get fancy I add a squirt of lime.  Heaven.

I get free soda water at work, but the day will eventually come when that supply runs out and on that day, I will want the ability to carbonate my own water.  And that's where SodaStream will come in.

SodaStream wants you to know that Scarlet Johansson is now the new face of SodaStream.  Look how much she loves SodaStream!



There will be some kind of official announcement about her brand ambassadorship on Super Bowl Sunday.  In the meantime, there seems to be quite a bit of controversy surrounding her sponsorship!  The controversy is actually pretty relevant to this blog, in fact.  SodaStream is an Israeli company that operates in a disputed area of the West Bank, and critics of the company argue that the the factory is taking advantage of the limited employment opportunities in that area by operating there.  

In response to criticism about this, SodaStream said through Johansson:

"I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine," the actress said. "SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma’ale Adumim factory every working day."

Very interesting!  I had no idea that SodaStream was an Israeli company or that there was controversy surrounding their operations.  For a Jewish Girl, I admit that I have little to no patience for Israeli politics.  All I know is that I love seltzer water.

What do you guys think?
  1. Do you have a Soda Stream?
  2. Have you been converted to the cult of sparkling water yet?
  3. What do you think of this controversy?  (See, e.g., here.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Welp, this was a disaster.

I have not checked into the blogs lately, but I can only assume that you have already heard about the enormous sale going on at Piperlime (affiliate link).


I came out of shopping retirement to buy this jacket (affiliate link), along with a bunch of other stuff, for basically $15:


Anyway, this sale was simultaneously awesome and a disaster, as all good things are.  Go check it out while the getting is good.  Plus, use eBates (referral link) to save another 2%.

And happy Friday!  Any fun weekend plans?  Mine involves lots of college friends, poker, and animals -- just not at the same time.

[Thanks @LolaNicole for the heads-up!]

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shopping Fail (AKA, The Hidden Costs of Car Ownership)

This weekend, at Target:



This weekend, at BJ's Wholesale Club:


However, I did manage to use my super free stuff-detecting skills to get a free $40 bottle of car wax and a free $25 restaurant.com gift certificate.

What can I say?  I am a savings ninja.  Except for the part where I apparently buy approximately 20 times more than what I actually need on any given shopping trip.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Online Dating, Pickup Artistry, and an offer from Match.com

This is a sponsored post.

I know very few people who have a "meh" attitude towards online dating.  In my experience, you are either pro or VERY con.

I am currently not on the market, but back in the day when I was, I maintained a free online dating account at (where else?) Jdate.com.  (Hey, I AM a Jewish Girl.)  I thought online dating was a nice way to supplement my social schedule.  Have some dates with guys met at parties, have some dates with guys met online.  Online dating for women is a pretty decent proposition, actually:  insist your dates pay for your drink or dinner, and at worst you have a funny/awkward story to tell at the end of the night.  Plus, based on what my Jdates seemed to tell me, 90% of women who date online are psychotic, so if you are normal, your dates will immediately be impressed and interested.

True story:  for a while there, I studied pick-up artistry!  This was around the time the reality show The Pickup Artist aired on VH1.  Do you remember that show?  It was about a bunch of professional pick-up artists who taught nerds how to become cool and intriguing to women.


I LOVED that show, mostly because the method advertised was so manipulative but seemed SO effective.  I wanted to learn more about it so that I would know when someone was using those methods on me, and in fact a month or two later someone tried to pick me up according to that strategy and I was able to see it coming and bust them on it!  (True caveat:  I was on a Jdate with someone else at the time the pick-up artist tried to pick me up!)

Part of pick-up artistry is a step called "demonstrating higher value" (a "DHV," for short).  In this stage, you do some kind of trick or tell some kind of story to establish that you are interesting and worth your target's time.  Here's one of the best DHVs I learned, which I still pull out from time to time whenever cocktail parties get too dull:

  • Start with some kind of story about how mind-reading isn't all that difficult, it's just about tapping into the common consciousness.  I like to cite a study I once read about in undergrad that found that people completed yesterday's crossword puzzle significantly faster than today's, and the theory behind that was that the answers to yesterday's puzzle were floating in the universe for people to access.
  • Tell your target that you think they could read your mind, too.  If you're on a date and you like the person, maybe add something about how you feel a connection to your date that you think they might be able to get in your head better than others.
  • Tell your target that you are going to write down a number.  Write down the number "7" on a piece of paper and fold it up.  Do NOT show this number to your target or let them see what you wrote.
  • Tell your target to clear their mind and after you give them the prompt just to say the very first number that comes into his/her head.  Then say to your target, "Pick the first number that you can think of between one and ten.  GO."  The key is to do this quickly so that your target goes with their first instinct.  
  • 70% of the time, people will pick 7.  You can increase their likelihood of picking seven by using hand gestures when you tell your target to pick a number between one and ten.  Imagine a number line in front of you that goes from one to ten.  When you say "one," gesture with your hand where the number one would fall, and when you say the word "ten," gesture with your hand where the number ten would fall.  When you say "GO", gesture with your hand where seven would fall.
  • After the person guesses seven, hand them the piece of paper with the number "7" written on it.  Bask in the glow of how awesome you are.
  • If the person doesn't guess seven, run.*
*  I haven't found a smooth way to recover when this trick fails.


Now get out there and pick up some people!

Onto the sponsored stuff.  Here's what Match.Com wants you to know:
  • Match.com's peak season, the site's busiest time of year, kicked off New Year's Day and spans all the way through Valentine's Day, where Match will see a 25-30% increase in registrations to the site. 


  • Why the rush to log in online in the new year?  In a recent poll, Match.com found that 51% of singles' New Year's resolutions will be to socialize more and focus on finding that special someone, making the desire to connect with someone a driving force for singles' to get online after the holidays. 

  • To get you online during prime time, Match.com is offering a 3-days free "date pass" for singles! Simply log on to claim your 3-days free offer. 

  • Who knows, you could get lucky in love like this Match.com couple— have you seen their proposal


Match.com sponsored this post.  I received monetary compensation in exchange for publishing this.  I'm totally gonna use that sweet dough to pay for the speeding ticket I think I got yesterday.  Damn traffic cameras.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I'm failing to see the connection here.

In today's episode of "Car Dealers are Absurd":


Now, I CAN'T BE SURE, but I feel reasonably confident that Dr. King's dream had very little to do with getting a good deal on an American automobile.

Go-To Recipe: Ropa Vieja

I think it's important for everyone to have a small collection of recipes that are easy to make, impossible to mess up, delicious, and healthy. These are your go-to recipes when you need to put together a last minute dinner for someone, when you want to make food for yourself for the week, when you are stumped on what to cook but want something delicious anyway.
 
This ropa vieja recipe is my #1 go-to. Amazingly, the recipe initially came from Weight Watchers, even though NOTHING about this delicious stewed meat tastes like diet food.
 
^ Slightly too much liquid in my version above, but you get the idea.
 
It's amazing over rice, cauliflower rice, roasted squash, potatoes...pretty much any starch you can think of will complement this tender, juicy, flavorful dish.
 
Plus, you can easily put it together in the slow cooker (you don't even have to brown the flank steak) and let it cook all day, or throw it inside a pressure cooker (which you should all have by now, RIGHT??) and let it go for about 75-90 minutes.
 
It hasn't let me down once, and I can't believe I haven't blogged about it by now!
 
What are your easy, go-to recipes?
 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Welcome Back, Me!

Hi Friends! Apologies for the long absence; work has been busy and I've been in a bit of a funk. I took a loooong vacation in December and now I feel refreshed and mostly back to my old self. Here's a quick catch-up of what has been going on with me:

I went to China!
Work matters brought me there and I was able to extend my trip by a day to do a little bit of sightseeing! I went to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Hutong District (a traditional Chinese neighborhood). Plus, the amazing office manager of our China office took great care of me while I was in town, going above and beyond the call of duty to stay up late and take me out to various local restaurants pretty much every night!




The food was incredible. My favorite meal by far was a night of Peking Duck (not pictured). The duck was delectable and it was served with the most air-light pancakes I have ever tasted (similar to the pancakes that come with muushuu, but thinner). The Great Wall was probably the highlight of the sightseeing trip. Never in my life did I ever expect to see the Great Wall in person. Plus, did you know you have the option to take a ski lift down from the wall OR A TOBOGGAN? A TOBOGGAN. DOWN FROM THE GREAT WALL. OF CHINA. Who are these people who are opting for the ski lift in that situation????

Plus, I went to the "silk market" where I bought lots of fun stuff, including "Beats Audio" bluetooth speakers for $10, an "Alexander McQueen" scarf for $10, and "Hermes" wallets for $20! (Note the air quotes...)

Silk Market Sale Haul. Note that the bike helmet above HAS EARMUFFS BUILT IN!


I Went on Winter Vacation!
This Jewish Girl experienced her first Christmas in St. Louis, and then I went to Vegas to ring in 2014!


My favorite part of the St. Louis trip was our visit to the City Museum. For those who haven't been, it's this odd collection of stuff inside what is essentially an enormous playground. There are slides everywhere (including a ten-story slide!) and you can climb on basically everything. It's a great place to entertain your inner child.

Our Vegas trip was fun as always. No big wins to report, but I enjoyed staying on both the strip and Old Vegas. We checked out the new "Container Park" that's out in Downtown Vegas, and it is a very cool scene. If you want to get away from the strip and have a chill night outdoors, it's a great place to go! (The giant cricket above sits outside of the park.)

I BOUGHT A CAR!
Let's just consider this an early 30th birthday present to myself!


It's a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. I did a lot of research about this car before taking the plunge. It's diesel, so it gets amazing highway gas mileage (50 mpg!) and feels incredibly powerful to drive. Here's hoping the maintenance and repairs are not outrageous! (I read a decent number of horror stories on the internet, but I have a few years of warranty coverage to figure out how much I like the car/how high the costs are, after which I can sell at a small loss if necessary.) Diesel engines can last past 400,000 miles (although everything around the engine may have to be replaced several times over)!

What should I name it?  One of my friends suggested "Shirley," which I like because I secretly/publicly still drink Shirley Temples sometimes.  Another friend suggested I give it a German name, like Brunhilde or Astrid.  Yet another friend suggested "Firecrotch."  Thoughts?


There, you're caught up!  Now, please tell me what I have missed with you! I have not been reading anybody's blogs in my absense so please fill me in on the haps!

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