Getting Real about Starbucks and Big Shades

 

And we all remember Madison’s take on the “Pursuit of Jappiness”

 

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Getting real about bagels, bento boxes, and the HinJews who love them

 

During college orientation at the University of Michigan, I made an offhand comment about “japs” to my roommate. She happened to be Japanese and let’s just say…she didn’t take it well. She listened skeptically as I hastily explained that I was referring to “Jewish.American.Princesses,” and was not making derogatory remark towards her race.

Three months later, someone else at Michigan would tell me that they had never met a Jewish person before. As a Westchester Yenta with a severe love of lox, I was horrified…and promptly considered rushing the Jewish sorority so I could finally feel at peace.

Today, I don’t think I would have these encounters…because the term J.A.P. has gone viral. For example, take this 250,000-view video, filmed at my alma mater and titled “The Pursuit of Jappyiness”:

Some people who have seen it have called it offensive. For me, it feels a bit like coming home. Note to the San Francisco Flannel Council: Please don’t revoke my hipster card because I embrace this video – I still want to live in the Mission and wear Chuck T’s.

And then there’s “Sushi With My Girls,” a blog which has been popping up on the Facebook feeds of everyone I went to high school with (and by everyone, I mean four girls, but whatever). Move over, Seventh Heaven – I have a new guilty pleasure and it involves it involves eating a spicy tuna roll with my besties while READING THIS BLOG.

After a careful review, I only matched 9 of the items on the “How Sushi Are You?” list, including:

1. If you got over 1000 on your SAT, then it is with 100% certainty that you or one of your five best friends growing up attended a school in the Sushi 12. (Is it weird that I’m proud that all four GRR bloggers attended a Sushi 12 school?)
2. You know numerous girls named Lindsay, Joanna/Jordana and Ali. (obvi)
7. Vodka Soda- aka “The Linds”- the greatest drink ever.   (guilty)
64. Soco and Lime shots! (guilty again but only when chopsy’s out)
10. Someone you lived with in college attended one of these high schools: Dalton, Horace Mann, Scarsdale, Great Neck East, Syosset, Jericho, Highland Park, Newton South, Cross Roads or Harvard Westlake. (one? try all)
30. You watch at least 2 versions of the Real Housewives. (Shit…surely, Atlanta doesn’t count as “Real”?)
47. Having a really close gay friend. (Or TWELVE)
71. The South- EWW- But I hear Austin is AMAZING! (SO TRUE)
92.  Scarves…in 50 degree weather! (This isn’t Sushi, this is San Francisco)

In the same way that Jane Goodall lived in the jungles of Tanzania to better understand chimpanzees, you can learn about my natural habitat (read: hometown) by reviewing this blog in detail.

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Getting Real about Valentine’s Day cynicism

Alright, it’s two days post Valentine’s Day, and I couldn’t help but wonder (a la Carrie Bradshaw), where did all the heart shaped balloons and life sized teddy bears go? Somewhere in a large, depressing storage unit waiting to reemerge in a year? Or are there industrial garbage containers somewhere full of deflating balloons and rotting chocolate?

I admit I’m a bit of a cynic and I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day. It’s too commercial and endorses all the silly love cliches. If you are in a relationship it sets up some high expectations for your partner…..fancy dinner reservations, 3 dozen roses, candlelight, a card in which he writes you beautiful prose describing how the gold flecks in your green eyes make him swoon? Or maybe you want nothing less than him to serenade you at the local Gap store while you are picking out some basics or trying to fill the argyle quota for your wardrobe..

I mean do you realize the man power necessary to pull that off? Of course you are in for a healthy dose of disappointment.

And if you are not in a relationship, you become painfully aware of it and feel like if you see one more heart-shaped object you are gonna stab a teddy bear. One year ago, I fell into the latter category, and I called my friend and fellow blogger Katie on the phone and went into a bitter rant. A few hours later she and her boyfriend showed up at my door with a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of champagne. And as we toasted each other in my kitchen I realized, I may not have romance in my life but I certainly had love.

One year later, Katie and Nate are still giving me a reason to smile on Valentine’s Day. The day before Valentine’s Day (perhaps to avoid a cliche) Nate proposed to Katie. Did I scream for about a minute straight? Maybe I did. Did I call Ramya immediately afterward to start planning the wedding? Yeah, so sue me. All I know is thinking of them put a stupid grin on my face alllll Valentine’s Day long. Katie and Nate, your friendship is a gift, and your love is an inspiration. Inspiration that may not end the cynicism, but at least it puts it on hold. From all the GRR ladies, we couldn’t be happier for you both!

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Getting Real about 3 people I want to slap some sense into this week

1) Chris Smith (+ all 173 members of the house that support The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act)

This bill includes many provisions. One of these provisions is the Hyde Amendment which prevents federal dollars to cover abortions with exemption in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the woman is threatened. The bill however proposes a change in language from rape to “forcible rape”.

This kind of open-ended language could allow interpretations that distinguish “real” rape from “non-forcible rape?!” as in the case where woman have been drugged or if the woman is of limited mental capacity. Who wrote this bill? The frat boy who sat next to me in psych class freshman year who told me that when girls mean no they really mean yes? Republicans often argue that government’s reach is too vast, like Rep. Michelle Bachmann who said we have a bureaucracy that tells us “which light bulbs to buy”. It’s not government’s place to tell us how to live our lives in a more sustainable, earth friendly way but it IS the government’s place to tell a woman what is a true violation of her body?

This goes beyond the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. Rape by definition is non-consensual sex. The word “force” has no place here. The absurdity of even having this debate is beautifully demonstrated by the following Daily Show segment:

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-february-2-2011/rape-victim-abortion-funding?xrs=share_fb

2. Kenneth Cole

And in other news Kenneth Cole referenced the uprisings in Egypt to promote his new spring line in the following tweet:

I guess clothes really can’t buy you class. Well done sir. I’m afraid this tweet might have the opposite effect you were hoping for on the sales of your new spring collection.

3. Gwyneth Paltrow

In the new issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK, Gwyneth complained about negative response to some of the posts on her lifestyle blog GOOP:

There were a couple of times when I thought, ‘I’m just gonna stop doing it. People are so mean to me. I don’t want to do it.’ But then I was like, ‘Who cares what some lame person out there says?’ I was in Italy once, and this old man came up to me and said, ‘I had the best time in Nashville because of Goop.’ And that is so worth it to me.”

Yes, keep doing what you do Gwyneth, don’t let those lame meanies get you down. Lonely Planet and Let’s Go, watch out, cause you might be out of business reeeeal soon.



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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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