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Archive for August, 2012

August Foodie Penpals

It’s the final day of the month so it must be Foodie Penpal time!

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This month I was paired with Gretchen who sent me a whole bunch of goodies (I know that’s a terrible picture above, but I lacked the patience and time to fix it). I had told Gretchen that I am a fan of quality over quantity and that I love to receive things from her area of the country (Ohio). And she really delivered!

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Under the category of really local are these mini zucchini muffins that were delicious! I shared them with my friends and work and they were a big hit.

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Ok, this Bertolli Balsamic glaze isn’t from Ohio, but it’s still great. I always want to buy a big thing of balsamic vinegar and make glaze, but I never do. So this is perfect.

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Here is some Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce and some local Ohio honey.

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And this tomato sauce which Gretchen says is her family’s favorite.

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And this classic caramel corn cob treat. I’ve never seen such a thing, but it’s pretty damn brilliant.

Unfortunately I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to try anything. I was going to open the tomato sauce last weekend, but then I thought it would go to waste since I wouldn’t be around all week to finish it. But I can’t wait to try the stuff and thanks so much to Gretchen for so many great things!

It feels like a small eternity ago (thank god August is over!) but I played Foodie Penpal to Carrie. I honestly don’t remember what I sent her so I can’t wait to go over to her blog and check it out and you all should too!

Thanks to Lindsay for organzing Foodie Penpals! If you want to participate in September here are the details:

Foodie Penpals Terms & Conditions

“By signing up to participate in Foodie Penpals, you are hereby agreeing to the following terms and conditions:

Condition 1: You will contact the person you are matched with withing 72 hours of receiving your match to discuss dietary needs, allergies and food preferences.

Condition 2: You will make an effort to meet the dietary needs of your penpal- ie not sending animal products to vegans, dairy products if your match tries to avoid dairy or junk food if they ask for healthy snacks.

Condition 3: You will mail your box by the 15th of the month. It is HIGHLY recommended that you purchase delivery confirmation/get a tracking number for your package. It is very inexpensive and can be used to prove that you sent your package in the event that it gets lost.
If your match does not receive a package for the month, you will receive a warning. If it happens two months in a row, you will no longer be able to participate in the program

Condition 4: In the event that you do not receive a package, Lindsay and The Lean Green Bean blog cannot be held accountable. By agreeing to participate in FPP, we cannot 100% guarantee that you will receive a package. The mail gets lost occasionally and your partner may fail to deliver.

-Condition 5: Using the foodie penpals email list to send out personal or spam emails promoting your blog, giveaways, etc is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Doing so is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program as it is a violation of the other participants’ privacy.

Failure to comply with these terms and conditions is grounds for dismissal from the Foodie Penpals Program.”

You can sign up here. * Note there are now different instructions if you’ve participated the previous month.

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The Decembrists – “O Valencia!”

Alexi Murdoch – “All My Days”

Ray Lamontagne – “Jolene”

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US Open 2012: Wednesday

Back again.

Back at the Open! Funny story about yesterday. For the past two years the higher ups at work have very graciously invited me to join them in a luxury box they get use of for one day. This year they weren’t able to use the luxury box so one of them suggested my company have its own US Open day since there are so many tennis fans. At the time I thought this meant there would be some incentive to go (free day off, subsidize ticket costs), but it turns out that there wasn’t. For a long time I didn’t want to go (my life is pretty crazy now, money is tight…), but I knew I had to since I became the de facto organizer. I waited until Tuesday to buy a cheap ticket from a resale site, but, in the end, like I suspected I might, I had a really lovely time.

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We started off at Ferrer vs. Anderson, it wasn’t terribly exciting.

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Then we went to watch Dimitrov (ridiculous headband) vs. Paire (sexy boxers).

Break for lunch (tostada, very good).

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Then it was Gulbis vs. Haas.

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We then tried to see the Williams sisters play doubles (at the request of one of my co-workers, it’s so not something I would ever try to do alone), but it was completely packed well before their match started. So we settled on Del Potro vs. someone I don’t remember.

Then back to Gulbis and Haas for the final set.

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Next we high-tailed it over to Ashe to watch Clijsters vs. Robson. Clijsters lost and now is retired. I always liked Kim, but I really, really like Laura Robson and I was happy to see her doing so well.

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Finally we ended the night with Harrison vs. Becker. Ryan Harrison is a promising young American who is known for being pretty volatile. Thankfully (sadly?) he held it together and played a very impressive match.

And by then it was about 9pm and time to head home. I am very happy I ended up going, not only because we saw a lot of really good tennis, but also because I got to know some of my colleagues better or in different ways.

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Austerity Measures

NPR is obsessed with austerity measures. Greece is undertaking austerity measures. Spain needs to take austerity measures. Germany wants austerity measures for everyone. And that’s pretty much my understanding of the world economy.

But now it’s time for my own austerity measures. I am really, really, really AWFUL at saving money. I am good at not getting in debt, I am good at not bouncing checks, I am good at paying bills on time, but long-term financial thinking is not my strong suit. (Except for my 401k which I am completely devoted to; I want to retire ASAP. I also really like my 401k because it’s like tricking my company into paying me more.) However, that needs to change. I need to get over my need for instant gratification and focus on the big picture. And the big picture requires money.

Here’s the deal. For a long time I’ve been saving a certain amount each month. I get paid twice each month and I automatically put 2/3 of what I save in my savings account after the first pay check and the other 1/3 in after the second pay check. And that’s great. But, inevitably, at the end of the month I run out of money and I need to transfer some of that savings back to my checking account. Or I go crazy with my credit card and I need to use that savings to pay off my credit card. Which defeats the purpose of saving.

In July I made it my goal not to use my credit card, which I’ve done a pretty good job on. August was a hard month with weddings, bridal showers, and trips so it got used a few times, but nothing too damaging. What I really want to focus on is cutting out all the unnecessary stuff. The $4 smoothies after kickboxing, the bag of chips at lunch, the buying lunch even though I’ve brought my lunch to work, the buying clothes just because I get an email about a sale.

And that’s where the austerity measures come in. I would like to save a significant amount of money by the end of the year. That gives me four months. I can probably survive four months without new clothes. I have a lot of clothes. I’ve come up with a goal of what I want to save, but sharing that on the Interweb doesn’t seem wise. But I have made a list of my essentials:

– Rent
– Metrocard
– Utilities
– Student Loans
– Spotify
– Netflix
– Food

I feel like I might be forgetting stuff there, anyway, the only non-fixed thing on that list is food. I think that $100/week should be plenty of money for food. I am going to make a real effort to meal plan and do most of my eating at home and bring lunch to work. And, if I go out, which I will inevitably do since this is NYC, I will try to order an appetizer (i.e. something cheaper) and no drink.

Now this sounds like a sad and depressing life, but it’s something I need to make a real effort to try to do. I’ve totaled up my fixed expenses, $400/month for food, and I’ve also added in $100/month for whatever I want (clothes, fancy makeup, Valium to make my life livable in this financial hell…) and then subtracted that from my meager salary to get to what I hope will be my monthly savings.

When I want something I want it right away. I am not good at delayed gratification, I am not good at depriving myself, and I am great at rationalizing ridiculous things. And yes, I realize this does make me sound incredibly bratty, I know I am very lucky to be able to blow my money on stupid stuff, but at some point I need to grow up and be responsible.

I’ve also started making a list of things I want but can’t buy. I will then give that list to my mother at Christmas. And hope she wants to spend $10,000 (not happening…). But it will also allow me to think about whether I really want something or whether I just want something in the moment. Other benefits I’m hoping for: weight loss (buying less shit), feeling less stressed and more in control, and having fun. It’s like a game. Watch my savings account add up!

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Monday Night at the US Open

I found a way to dry my shoes.

It rained at lunchtime yesterday. My shoes got wet. So I made a little dryer on the empty desk in my office. Also, when I went to Starbucks yesterday morning I put a full wrapped straw into my iced green tea. So that’s how the first part of my day went.

Back at @usopentennis! @leftylaura

The second part of my day was much better. My friends and I went out to the US Open for our traditional opening night attendance. We made it out there on the seven train in record time and started out watching Petra Kvitova play on the Grandstand.

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As part of the opening ceremony this year they had this really interesting light show. We missed a lot of it (waiting online for pasta and meatballs which they ended up being out of!), but what we saw looked really cool.

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(Those guys in the hats didn’t take their hats off for the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Which is one of my pet peeves. I started to yell at them, but they didn’t hear me and my friend stopped me. It’s just so rude.)

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Then we (and our dinner) got attacked by a giant smoke cloud. I could have done without that part.

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We watched the first set of Kim Clijsters verus the young American (17 years-old!) Victoria Duval. Duval was playing her first professional match, at the US Open, on the main stadium, versus a 3-time winner, at night, right after a huge ceremony. No pressure, right? She held her own though. It was clear she wasn’t going to win, but she certainly didn’t panic and made a better impression than I had expected.

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After the first set of Clijsters we went back to the Grandstand to watch the American Michael Russell versus Giles Simon. It ended up being a really competitive and interesting match. We stayed until the beginning of the fourth set and decided it was time to head home. I was sad to leave early, but this is a really crazy week to me and I knew getting home at 3am probably wouldn’t be the best thing.

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Monday Happies

As part of my Monday Happies I’m also going to start including my plans for working out and eating for the week. An attempt to be more organized, healthier, and save money. Those plans can be found below.

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1. US Open. I know, I know, this isn’t a tennis blog, but it’s a big part of my life so it’s here. I am super excited to go to the US Open tonight for their opening night festivities with three of my good friends from work. And I’m excited to go all day Wednesday and Thursday. And I’m really excited to watch it on TV evenings and over the weekend (I don’t know why, but I really love watching it on TV).

Smoothie after a hard kickboxing class = best thing ever.

2. Berry Blast Smoothie. After kickboxing on Saturday I was hot and miserable so I looked up nearby Smoothie places on Yelp and found this great little place that’s about a 15 minute walk away. I got an amazing berry smoothie (with OJ, minus honey) for $4! FOUR DOLLARS! In NYC. Small miracle. So I went back Sunday and got the large, for $5. And it was amazing.

Too early for pumpkin beer? I don't think so.

3. Pumpkin Beer. Too early for pumpkin beer? I don’t think so. I had a serious craving this weekend so I took advantage. It was fab. I was never a big pumpkin fan, but over the past few years I’ve started drinking pumpkin beers and eating pumpkin baked goods, now I just need to conquer the healthy pumpkin things.

Monday
Lunch: Leftover mac and cheese
Dinner: Out at the US Open
Workout: Rest day

Tuesday
Lunch: Leftover mac and cheese
Dinner: Leftover mac and cheese
Workout: Rest day

Wednesday
Lunch: Out at US Open
Dinner: Out at the US Open
Workout: Rest day

Thursday
Lunch: Out at the US Open
Dinner: Leftover mac and cheese
Workout: Kickboxing

Friday
Lunch: At my parents’ house
Dinner: At my parents’ house
Workout: Walk at my parents’ house

Saturday
Lunch: At my parents’ house
Dinner: At my parents’ house
Workout:

Sunday
Lunch: At my parents’ house
Dinner: At my parents’ house
Workout:

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US Open Tips

This is a recycle of a post I wrote more than two years ago. This the US Open starts tomorrow I thought I’d slightly update it and repost it…

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I’m a very big tennis fan. Like abnormally so. But it’s fine because tennis is a great sport that everyone should enjoy. I’ve been attending the US Open here in NYC since I was a small child and during this time I’ve picked up some tips that I’m now going to share with all of you because the Open is coming up and I think everyone should attend the Open at least once.

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1. BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY. You’ve already failed at this, but no worries, just make a note for next year. If you’re a USTA member you can buy tickets in April, but even as an obsessive tennis fan I find that to be too extreme. If you have an American Express card you can buy tickets a week before the general public. Tickets usually go on sale at the beginning of June. And they tend to go quickly. Hence my advice.

2. GET AN AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD. In addition to being able to buy tickets early, American Express also offers cardholders (do I sound like an advertisement?) 2-for-1 ticket deals during certain sessions. This includes the first four night sessions and days during second week (not Labor Day). (Update: Last year they didn’t do the buy-one-get-one for evening tickets, but this year they did. These tend to go quickly so if you’re looking to take advantage cross your fingers they’re doing it and get them early.)

3. SPEND AS LITTLE TIME IN ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM AS POSSIBLE. Unless you’re going towards the end of the tournament the matches you’re going to see in the Open’s main stadium, Arthur Ashe, are going to be (with a few exceptions) D-U-L-L!!

4. EMBRACE THE NOSEBLEED SEATS. I’m going to assume that no one reading this blog has the means to spend thousands of dollars on tickets (but if you do remember the little people). Which means we’re spending under one-hundred dollars to be fairly far away from the action. Ashe stadium is the largest tennis stadium in the world and it shows. Yes, the players look very small, but you can still see the action from anywhere in the upper deck (trust me, I’ve probably sat in all the seats).

Wide View

5. WATCH FOR THE USHERS WITH THE COLORED TICKETS. If you’re at a night session that goes late (and even some day sessions, we’ll get to that in a minute) and the aristocracy in the lower levels need to leave before their chauffeurs start making time-and-a-half (or something), the powers that be will let the proletariat descend from the upper deck to be closer to the action. To take advantage of this as soon as possible, watch for the ushers with the colored rectangles of paper and go to them immediately. Then sprint down the stairs and line up outside one of the entrances (there will be people to direct you) and wait to be allowed into the Promised Land. I recommend shoving your way towards a seat on the ends of the court (not the side) as you will have less head turning to do, plus you’ll be higher up so you’ll have a better view of the entire court.

This is what it looks like up-close

Note I did not follow my own advice here.

The powers that be also allow the proletariat down to the front if the day session goes late. In this case they just make an announcement, there aren’t tickets, so keep your ears open.

6. CHECK OUT THE TWO OTHER STADIUMS. Besides Ashe Stadium there are two other main stadiums: Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand. Louis Armstrong is nice, but still quite big. The Grandstand is, in my opinion, the perfect-sized stadium for tennis. There’s a covered area on one side but that’s almost impossible to get a seat in as people flock to any shaded area. I recommend sitting on the corner of one of the non-shaded parts. Keep in mind that it’s bleacher seating (no backs) so it can get uncomfortable. (Note: Lines to get into both will appear extremely long, but once there’s a change-over (aka a break in the action) they move everyone in (and out) quickly.) (Update: Court 17, which was built last year, is a really amazing venue to watch tennis. It’s probably about the same size as the Grandstand, but there are actual chair seats on both sides and the bleacher seating has backs. I think Court 17 has overtaken the Grandstand as my favorite court.)

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7. VISIT THE OUTER COURTS. There won’t be any big, big names out there, but during the first week of the Open this is where all the action happens. The top players will have (in most cases) fairly easy matches on the stadium courts so you should head to the outer courts to see more competitive matches. Look out for players like Nicholas Almagro (hits the ball as hard, and a personal favorite of mine), Ernests Gulbis (a real character and a great player when he’s “on”), Richard Gasquet (has an amazingly beautiful backhand). I’m not recommending any women because (as much as it pains me) I can’t stand women’s tennis.

Hitting it low

8. EAT THE FOOD. The food court at the Open, located outside of Ashe Stadium, has some delicious (given the setting) food. I highly recommend the burritos from the Mexican place and the meatballs from the Italian place (the pasta is kind of gross but the meatballs are surprisingly delicious). Both are very reasonably priced (or I’ve lived in NYC for too long), the burrito, which comes with chips and salsa is $10 (cheaper than Chipotle!) and the pasta and meatballs is around $11. Also, Ben and Jerry’s also has ice cream stands all over the grounds and there is nothing better than a Half-Baked bar as you’re boiling in the heat. (Update: This year they added a farm-to-table stand which I am excited to try.)

9. CHECK OUT THE PRACTICE COURTS. The practice courts are a great place to see the big stars up close. Most of the time they’re pretty packed but if you can shove your way to the front or get a spot on one of the bleachers that overlook the practice courts you’re all set. Or you can hide under the trees that surround the courts (I’m not kidding, you will have a great view). Also, if autographs are your thing, the practice courts are the place to be.

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10. GO TO THE QUALIFYING ROUNDS. Like all tournaments the US Open has a qualifying round. Basically the top players get into the tournament automatically, the tournament has a few wild cards to give away as it sees fit (to up-and-coming players mostly), and then there’s a mini tournament before the main tournament where players outside of the top-100 can play three rounds to make it into the main draw of the tournament (how many times can I say tournament in once sentence?). The qualifying rounds, which are free to go to the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before the actual tournament starts, are where you see players truly fighting it out. Why are they fighting it out? The prestige is pretty great, but if a player makes it out of qualifying they are guaranteed $18,000, even if they lose in the first round of the main draw. And who doesn’t want $18,000?

Anyone else a big tennis fan? Anyone else planning on going to the Open?

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