Monthly Archives: January 2011

Getting Real about living in Portland

Portland – you probably don’t know that much about it.  Maybe you’ve considered visiting one day, but then thought about how much more fun it would be to go to Costa Rica.  I recommend letting IFC take you there.  At least on a tour of the city’s stereotypes with guides Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney fame.  Be sure to stay long enough to see Steve Buscemi in the Women & Women Bookstore.

Fridays @ 10:30pm

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Getting Real about eye contact with Matt Damon

Tell me where it hurts

Are you going to be in San Francisco this weekend?

Do you enjoy a well-catered lunch?

How are you at faking infectious disease symptoms?

What if Dr. Matt Damon was curing your infectious disease while Dr. Jude Law was giving you a lung transplant?

Oh and the only thing on your calendar from February 9th – 19th is watching Kathie Lee and Hoda on NBC

CONGRATS YOU’VE JUST BEEN HIRED AS AN EXTRA ON MATT’S NEW MOVIE

 

 

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Getting Real about American Apparel

I love American Apparel. On any given day, there’s a pretty high chance you’ll find me wearing one of their fleece track jackets or t-shirts. I love the fact that I can get my hipster fix, without having to wade through a bunch thrift stores in the Mission. Their embrace of organic cotton products and sweatshop-free labor allows me to stroke my smug Bay-Area better-than-you sensibilities, for much less than the cost of a Prius.

Lately, however, the American Apparel store near my office has been making me a bit uncomfortable. No, it’s not the numerous sexual harassment lawsuits directed at founder (or the founder’s gross porn-stache).

It’s the mannequins. They’re a bit distracting. My monthly lunch-time walk-and-talk with my boss goes right by the store. And it’s tough to maintain a normal work conversation, when I’m faced with this.

Don’t get me wrong, I like some headless hipster ass in my face just as much as any red-blooded American male, just not when I’m trying to talk shop.

Maybe I’m just easily distracted. No problem, you say:  Eyes forward or just choose a different route. But it’s not just the walk to lunch: Grooveshark, SFist and Pitchfork (necessary daily viewing) all carry some steamy American Apparel ads.

And it’s not that I’m shocked by mildly salacious advertising. In fact, I love it. I’m all for the just-nailed-the-girl-next-door aesthetic.  Kudos to you American Apparel for making me uncomfortably aroused. It’s just a bit too much during the work hours. When pulling up an email in front of a customer, do I really want to see thigh-highs on the other screen?

socks so good, you don't need pants

Actually, yes, I do want to see thigh-highs on the other screen. But I need as much help as possible keeping a professional workplace, and these ad campaigns are not helping.

So, American Apparel, please confine your naughty advertising to stuff I’m not going to read at work (see TMZ & Perez Hilton), or at least limit the steaminess from 9-5.

Thanks,
Easily Distracted

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Getting Real about my small bank account



Ugh, it’s that time of year again. Not only do I need to watch the numbers on the scale but I also have to track my (dwindling) bank account numbers. After my return from an amazing weekend at the Villagio including  a Thomas Keller dinner and an epic massage from a large man, I immediately had to get my money in check. Here are five east steps to get you started on your Money Diet.

1. Eat out only with company—When it comes time to save, the first thing I cut is my all-too-frequent eating out. I am very guilty of grabbing a $10 sandwich for lunch, picking up a $15 pre-made dinner from Whole Foods and then meeting a friend for $20 drinks.
Don’t get crazy about this. Start cutting the meals that aren’t a social activity. Take time to go to the grocery store (the normal priced ones) and get enough to make lunch and dinner for the week. But if a friend calls for dinner or drinks, GO!

2. Stop shopping the sales racks—Every store is drastically dropping prices to get those trendy Winter items out of the store. Don’t be tempted! I know you want another bedazzled sweater from J Crew but avoid at all costs! These items are trendy and you will never meet my $3 per wear rule.
Per wear rule: an item needs to be $3 or less per wear to make it worth it. For example, if you buy $300 boots, you better wear them at least 100 times before it’s “worth it”.
If the item does meet the rule, go for it because it’s probably a classic, timeless item that you will wear for many seasons to come.

Ok, this bedazzled sweater may be worth it :)

Ok, this bedazzled sweater may be worth it 🙂

3. Read your bills— Automatic bill pay is awesome. I get it. However, you need to take time to read those numbers and understand exactly what you’re paying for. Sometimes your situation changes and so should your bill. You simply need to call.
For example, I started a new job closer to home and typically drive less than 30 miles per week. I called my car insurance company and they automatically took $30 bucks off my monthly bill.
Same deal with my cable bill. I noticed a $50 increase after six months and called Comcast. I asked for a discount and they agreed to waive the increase. It’s just that easy.

4. Call about your credit card interest rate—Do you know your credit card interest rate number? No? BAD!!
Even if you pay your bill off in full every month, you don’t want a large interest rate. This number tends to increase if you are not watching carefully. Look it up, call and ask them to lower it. Again, it is just that easy.

5. Enjoy the small things—This shouldn’t feel like a food diet. Don’t keep a written budget because they don’t work. If that $1.85 Peet’s coffee brings you that much happiness, go for it! If you need to get a $12 manicure on a weekly basis, please do. This should be realistic and something that will quickly beef up your savings account without forcing you to feel like a poor college student.

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Getting Real about Hollywood’s most talked about moments this week

1. Anne Hathaway cast as Catwoman


Anne Hathaway has nabbed the role of Selina Kyle and her alter ego, Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s latest film in the Batman saga, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Set for release on July 20, 2012, this is rumored to be Nolan’s last Batman film, so probably also the last Batman movie anyone will care to see. Remember when Joel Schumacher tried to do a Batman movie and cast Arnie as Ice Man? Not so hot (pun intended). On a more serious note, Michelle Pfeiffer will forever be my Catwoman and that’s that.

2. Jennifer Anniston hates the “Rachel” haircut

In this month’s Allure magazine, Aniston refers to the rachel haircut as the “bane of her existence” and says, “I think it’s the ugliest haircut I’ve ever seen”. Really? Have you ever seen this one?

Orrr how about this one?

Yeah, the “rachel” is starting to look pretty good right about now isn’t it?

3. Natalie Portman’s speech at the Golden Globes

During her acceptance speech for winning the Best Actress award for her role in Black Swan, Natalie acknowledges and thanks her fiance and Black Swan co-star Benjamin Millepied saying, “you might remember him in the movie as the guy they ask, would you sleep with that girl? and he’s like pfff no!” Ok, yes with you so far Natalie…then she goes on to say, “he’s the best actor! It’s not true, he totally wants to sleep with me,” then giggles like a school girl and points to her pregnant belly. So that’s how babies are made. Just one word Natalie: awwwkward.

4. January Jones’ dress
January Jones was the anti-Betty Draper, ditching the demure for the down right saucy. Some call it bold, some call it provocative. I say, while she certainly has the figure to pull it off, too much of the dress was cut out for my taste. My male friend says: there was two things I liked about that dress. I will let you guess what those were.

5. Ricky Gervais is too crude for some

The peeps at the Golden Globes think he went too far and his jabs were mean spirited. I personally enjoyed that he called out the Hollywood Foreign Press for nominating The Tourist just to get Angie and Brad to the ceremony. Seriously when was the last time either of those two made a good movie? I’m still trying to forget the three hours of my life I wasted watching Benjamin Button.

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Getting Real about black sand between your toes, Swiss chalets and Frette sheets

You’ve watched every episode of Millionaire Matchmaker on-demand, your liquid jacket isn’t as windproof as it was in college and your Totes Toasties have been worn so often that the grippers on the bottom are starting to come off. Basically, you’ve got a bad case of “winter” that you need to escape.

Thankfully, in the last year, the interwebs have given birth to a crop of discount luxury travel sites that allow you to flee your humdrum life and take a fabulous journey to an exotic locale. Since I travel almost as much as George Clooney in “Up In the Air,” and can’t resist a good deal, here’s a rundown of some of my faves.

Jetsetter

Jetsetter, a spawn of the addictive fashion site Gilt, offers “flash sales” on luxury hotels at unbeatable prices.

The Upside: While some of their picks may not seem cheap, when you look at the sticker price, you realize what a good deal you’re getting. Also, each hotel they feature gets the “Jetsetter Verified” stamp, which means that it’s going to be a damn good hotel.

The Downside: Jetsetter flash sales only last for a few days max and the best dates (weekends, holidays, etc) get eaten up quickly. If you want the best deal on the best date, you need to act fast. Jetsetter just introduced a new feature where you can book any hotel at any time but this blogger only recommends that if you have Oprah’s bankroll.

Trips I’ve booked on this site: Our recent blogger’s retreat took place at a hotel (Villagio in Yountville) that we booked on Jetsetter. While the price of over $250 a night was steep, since it was split between the four of us, it wasn’t bad. And all four of us were able to use the spa facilities, enjoy an opulent afternoon tea (yup, crustless sandwiches and pine nut scones), and a breakfast with omelets on demand, for free. Last summer, I also booked the Fairmont Sonoma (also very snazzy) for under $100 on Jetsetter.

Hot deals they have going on now: Bestill my Sperry-loving heart – the c/o Maidstone in the Hamptons is like a preppy girl’s dream come true. I would advise booking a weekend in March when it’s a bit warmer but the prices have yet to completely shoot through the roof. Or if you want to get a little “wild,” there’s also a stay at the Vuyani Lodge in South Africa, which promises up close visits with Simba, Timon and Pumba. The $390 per night pricetag isn’t cheap but the rate includes three meals a day, safari drives, and airport transfers. MEE-OW.

If you’re thinking about booking, please do use this link – you’ll get $25 in free credit and so will this starving blogger.


Tablet Hotels

Tablet focuses a bit more on “hotels on demand,” which is to say that you can easily search their site by preferred destination, type of trip or hotel name. Tablet will turn up a list of “approved” hotels that they recommend. They also have “Private Sales” which have steeper discounts, but these aren’t promoted as well.

The Upside: In addition to surfacing great hotels that match your search criteria, Tablet also posts “Top 10” lists that can help you pick a hotel. From “Best Unusual Hotels” to “Best Beach Hotels,” there’s a list you’ll want to look at.

The Downside: Sometimes when you search for a specific destination, the list of hotels that Tablet turns up is sparse. This is likely because these hotels are already booked for the days you want them but it can be an unsatisfying experience.

Hotels I’ve Booked on This Site: When I was booking hotels for my recent trip to Argentina, I wanted to find places that were a bit unusual and exciting. When I searched for hotels in Mendoza, Tablet turned up Club Tapiz, which is set on a vineyard in Argentinian wine country. It was the perfect place to stay. Also, I recently booked a stay at Donovan House in Washington, DC for work. Donovan House is one of my favorite hotels in DC – it’s located right in the neighborhood where I used to live, has an amazing pool and a glorious rainfall shower that makes you feel like you’re in a time machine. Tablet had a MUCH cheaper rate than the one the Donovan House website published.

Hot deals they have going on now: Channel your inner Gordon Gecko with a stay at Andaz Wall Street, with rates from $150 in the Tablet Private Sale section. New York doesn’t come cheaper than this…unless the hotel charges by the hour. Otherwise, jet down to Buenos Aires for the weekend – Tablet has last-minute deals starting for only $100 a night in Palermo, BA’s trendiest neighborhood. And if you need a good steakhouse recommendation, I’ve got you covered.

BetterBidding.com

While Betterbidding.com isn’t a luxury hotel site, as a savvy traveler I would be remiss not to include it, because it has really helped me over the years. I am not ashamed to admit that I love getting great deals on Hotwire and Priceline. I mean, sometimes you just want a place to sleep that you know is going to be decent like a Westin or a Hilton, and Hotwire/Priceline deliver these at a great price. What I hate, is ending up at a hotel that sucks because Hotwire/Priceline didn’t tell me the name of it before I hit confirm.

Betterbooking.com takes the guesswork out of these sites by creating user-generated lists that match the listed amenities (pool, gym, business center) with the names of the hotels that it is most likely to be.

The Upside: There is no other site like it. Thousands of users work together to tell you which hotel you’re going to be booking, before you actually book. A beautiful demonstration of crowd-sourcing.

The Downside: The user experience and overall design of the site is in a word, heinous. You aren’t going to get the slick black background and easily navigable tabs that you will with the first two mentioned sites.

Hotels I’ve Booked: I’ve booked too many hotels to count on this site. It’s been most beneficial when I’m trying to figure out whether a hotel is a Starwood Hotel or not, since I am a Starwood Preferred Guest and adore that Heavenly Bed.

Hot deals they have now: There are always deals to be had on Priceline and Hotwire. First search there. Then cross-reference Betterbidding before you book your hotel.
And with that, happy trails to you! May your hotel closets by filled with plush robes and your days be filled with scuba adventures!

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Getting Real about dinner at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc


Saturday night, after one crushed pearl facial and an epic shower consisting of 15+ high-powered jets coming at you from every direction, lemongrass oil and ginger body scrub, the well primped ladies of GRR arrived for their 8:30pm dinner reservation.  Basically imagine the scene from Sex and the City of the girls walking in sync down a busy New York street in 4 inch Manolos.  Except we were in Yountville, CA which totals all of 3 blocks and the shoes were JCrew.

Ad Hoc refers to “impromptu” or “spur of the moment”, in restaurant terms that means whatever the chef feels like cooking.  The menu will always allude to family style cuisine vs. the high-end french food served up at French Laundry down the street.  The menu changes every night offering 4 pre-fixed courses for $49 + $39 if you choose to have wine paired with each course, which we did not.  The very attentive waitstaff wear black bowling shirts and chuck taylors, except for a one particularly elegant man, Nick, who appears very confident in pastels and checks up on your table after each course.


First Course:  citrus salad with grapefruit and blood orange, fennel ribbons and candied hazelnuts
Consensus – refreshing and light, Ramya was not in love with the fennel, everyone was in love with the candied hazelnuts.

Supplemental Course for an extra $14:  If Thomas Keller offers you a supplemental course you say “yes please” no questions asked.  Stuffed shrimp peppers with squid. We opted for one supplemental course split four ways.  Have you ever tried to split squid four ways?  Yeah I don’t recommend it.

Entree Course:  roasted lamb with swiss chard, some crazy good breadcrumbs, some other crazy good cream sauce. Served with a side of mashed sweet potatoes with a heap of butter melting into the bowl.
Consensus – perfectly cooked, loved that it was served in an all-clad stainless steel pan.  The sweet potatoes gave me a warm fuzzy feeling like the first time I saw Jacob racing through a foggy national forest in cutoff jorts.  Similar to a dream I had last night.

Cheese Course:  pantaleo that was aged ten years and was delicious – the accompanying chutney was enjoyed by all, while the celery was a miss for a few of the ladies at the table.

Dessert Course: warm apple pie tartlets with caramel sauce and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream – tasted like the Fourth of July with Katy Perry singing “Firework”.  Our humble and gracious host Nick paired our final course with a wonderful dessert wine – complimentary after we bonded over such topics as Michelangelo’s David and the birthday song at Applebee’s.

Favorite moments Katie: Nick exchanged my copy of Ad Hoc at Home with one kept in the kitchen signed by Thomas Keller!  The book was signed by our waitstaff and the book’s illustrator who designed the restaurant’s pig icon.  That alone was worth the high $$$$

Favorite moments Flora: Nick’s periwinkle (lavender – depending on the lighting) sweater, the music which ranged from Stevie Wonder to Katy Perry to Simon & Garfunkel, the amount of times I was thanked for coming in oh and those mashed sweet potatoes…maybe I licked the serving spoon ok? And I’d do it again.

Favorite moments Ramya: When Katie told our waiter Dan that while she was an amateur chef, she was at the “advanced” level of amateur…to which he responded with something like, “Oh, I’m not very advanced but I do make a delicious bouillabaisse…the trick is extracting all of the scallop love.” And he was talking about fish extract, not hearts and sonnets.

Favorite moments Marisha: Obviously my favorite part of the evening was the meat. I didn’t think I was a lamb person but leave it to Tommy (i.e. Thomas Keller) to prove me wrong. Words can not describe how perfectly it was cooked and how happy it made my stomach. Second favorite? Being told I have “amazing lips” by Nick the GM.

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RETRACTION: Getting Real about the Oscar countdown

UPDATED 1/18/2011:  The Illusionist is not something anyone should ever pay to see.  Take my word for it.  And no one in the Academy will vote for it, not even Sony.

From the creators of the Triplets of Belleville comes the Illusionist – please note Christian Bale and Ed Norton do not make any appearances.

Currently the film is only in limited release – because animated features not Pixar or Dreamworks related freak distributors out.

http://www.sonyclassics.com/theillusionist/dates.html

The Illusionist is up for Best Animated Feature at Sunday’s Golden Globes but this little film is more concerned with beating out Toy Story 3 for the Oscar in February.

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Getting Real about the best blogs you are not reading

 

GRR's first annual bloggers retreat is upon us!

 

As GRR prepares for our first annual bloggers conference in Napa this weekend we wanted to give a few shout-outs to other bloggers and favorite websites who inspire us and offer up endless hours of entertainment when our desk jobs fall short.

It’s time to update your google reader account with a few of the below

For Foodies : smitten kitchen; What Katie Ate; the Kitchn; the Wednesday Chef; Foodzie

When planning your next dirty weekend : airbnb

Music: muzzleofbees (wisco-chicago indie scene); thebaybridged (sf indie coverage); pitchforkreviewsreviews; hipsterrunoff (i ❤ Carles)

Design: sfgirlbybay.com; The Neo-Traditionalist; The City Sage; Oh Happy Day; Coco + Kelley; Elements of Style; Plush Palate; Abbey Goes Design Scouting; Decor8; A Cup of Joe – Marisha is it possible for you to read more home design blogs?

Wedding : Snippet & Ink; The Bride’s Cafe; Style Me Pretty; Weddingbee

Fashion : Refinery29; TAVI (damn you and your front-row runway seats)

Hollywood : Nikki Finke

LOL: http://kimjongillookingatthings.tumblr.com/

 

 

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Getting Real about the lost art of emailing

A few weeks ago, The New York Times published an article that said if email is your preferred method of communication you are officially old school. The “young” people have spoken: email is lame. It’s all about texting and chatting. They don’t have time for email, and why should they? They are too busy going to Justin Beiber concerts and picking out homecoming dresses to be bothered to put any actual thought into what they are writing. Composing a fully formed sentences? That is so 2005.

omg, hilarious!

“The problem with e-mail, young people say, is that it involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours.”

A lot of things wrong here. First, signing in – I’m pretty sure this process takes approximately 2 seconds and if it’s taking you longer, you are doing something wrong. Second, the subject line – you can actually leave it blank if this is really a point of stress. Third, writing the message – communicating in the written form is a skill. A very important skill that you will need in both your personal and professional life. A skill that “young people” and even old fogies like me in their 20’s often severely lack.

wtf, why the face?

 

Let me tell you a little story. I dated a guy once. He liked to send me cutesy texts and emails. But you know what wasn’t so cute? His atrocious grammar. I once made a comment about it and he told me that grammar rules don’t matter in causal texts and emails. Who cares as long as you’re getting your point across? I care. I, the reader, care. And I cringe every time I see ‘your’ being used instead of ‘you’re’. Or worse yet, ur. I’m sorry but if you are college educated and don’t know the difference between your and you’re, or worse yet, don’t care enough to differentiate between the two, ur an idiot. Needless to say that relationship did not work out.

Our generation is used to communicating at warp speed and getting a response instantly. But taking the time to think about what you say and how you say it is never a bad thing. And in this age where written communication is becoming much more prevalent than verbal, it’s important to keep in mind, everything you email, text, chat is on record somewhere. You never really know for sure where it is saved, who has access to it, and who might read it. So don’t you want to have the ability (you know, even if you don’t always use it) to represent yourself well? Or do u want ppl 2b rofl at ur crappy writing 4eva more?

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