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This is for all you Jersey kids out there.  I feel like most people don’t spend enough time exploring the place they actually live, so I’ve spent a lot of time this past year reading up about local events, restaurants, festivals, etc. to make sure Jared and I are always on the go with no down time.  😉  NJ My Way is another great site to help me achieve that goal.

From a frequently updated blog to event listings, it’s super easy to find a round up of everything going on in the fabulous Garden State.  Also, if you’re looking for jobs, the site integrates with a local job finder tool, putting everything you need right in one place.

Enjoy!

3 West in Basking Ridge has been on our list of restaurants to try for awhile now.  We finally got around to trying it last Friday and certainly weren’t dissapointed.

As per usual, we checked out the reviews on Yelp to get a sense for dress and what to expect.  It’s actually amusing, but there was one review by Dominic F. that made us want to try it.  Although he only gave the restaurant one star, he said, “Another thing that i thought was funny is i ordered a miller lite and was told “we don’t serve that here”…a VERY snooty place.”  Sounded perfect for those of us that actually enjoy the taste of beer and aren’t just drinking for the sake of drinking.

3 West is part of the same restaurant group as Trap Rock, a local restaurant and brewery in Berkeley Heights we’ve been to before.  3 West serves beer from Trap Rock, as well as a seasonal Magic Hat Jared had never tried.  Hence why they don’t serve watered down sorry excuses for beer.

The atmosphere of 3 West is lovely.  With a fireplace in the center of the restaurant that all patrons could see as well as a kitchen that can be viewed through lovely farm house style windows, the ambience is up scale without being untouchable.

The manager seated us, and we were immediately taken care of by part 1 of our serving team.  I believe his name was Mike.  He took our drink orders.  The second half of our serving team, Laura, I believe, was super dynamic and a real pleasure.  I decided to be bold and order the Pumpkintini.  However, upon first sip, I knew it was not going to be very fun to drink for someone like me that’s not a huge liquor fan.  Laura asked me how it was, and when I admitted I was sure it was a good drink, it just wasn’t for me, she offered to take it back.  Let me just preface this by saying I would NEVER return something to the kitchen or bar, no matter how wrong it is.  I usually just chalk it up to being my fault.  I told her it was ok, but she very politely insisted, telling me a lot of people weren’t into that drink.  She totally saved the evening for me, and handled it in a way that didn’t embarrass me!

The food at 3 West was as delightful as the wait staff.  Usually the specials menus aren’t that interesting to me, but this specials menu was so fabulous, I ended up ordering my entire meal from it.  Jared and I both started with a soup from the specials menu.  I had the butternut squash, which is my favorite soup, and it did not disappoint.  Laura pointed out some great dinner choices from the specials menu and regular menu. She was so knowledgeable, she actually caused Jared to switch his choice to one of her recommendations!  We both got a steak dish featured on the specials menu.  Steak is not my usual, but she talked it up as being a thinner variety, which sometimes I’m in the mood for.  And the sides certainly made the meal for both of us.  Mine came with a side of mashed sweet potatoes with caramelized brown sugar that was to die for. Jared’s came with an herbed polenta cake that was absolutely fantastic.  Overall, Jared’s steak had a bit more flavor than mine, but it was cooked to my liking, and definitely a treat.

Dessert was probably the best I’ve ever had.  We weren’t super hungry for it, but decided to split the Caramel Brownie Sundae.  Usually, brownie sundaes are pretty blah to me, but it’s always something Jared and I can agree on, since he’s not a chocolate fan.  This was literally a sundae, served in a sundae dish, with pieces of brownie mixed in with vanilla ice cream and delicious, legitimate caramel.  Simply stunning.

After our meal, the manager came back over to see how we had enjoyed it, and we actually told him about the review and that that was the reason we came.  We also took the time to complement him on his staff.  Although the restaurant got very busy by the time our meal was wrapping up and things were a bit slower, I never felt as if the attention lagged.  Great service makes a difference at a place like this, and 3 West certainly has it down to a science.

While the food at Trap Rock is not really that fantastic, I was pleased to see that 3 West did not disappoint in any area from the food to the drinks.  Thanks for a great experience!

My rating:  10/10

3 West
665 Martinsville Road
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
908-647-3000
http://www.3westrest.com/

What a surprise, I’m talking about another discount site!

I first heard of Groupon from my friends in DC who were using it for things like discounted meals, show tickets, and other awesome wonders.  Assuming it was just something offered in big cities, I ignored it for awhile.  I recently discovered that there was a North Jersey section, so I signed up.

The way Groupon works is this:  users that sign up receive a great deal on things to buy, eat, see and do in their area.  The deals are activated only when a minimum number of people sign up to buy.  Once that minimum is reached, the coupon is active and can be taken to the local place of business.  Groupon states that typically users save between 50-90%.

Unfortunately for me, with NYC so close, the North Jersey deals are the closest option and aren’t really well targeted to what I consider North Jersey.  So far, nothing has been super relevant for me.  In fact, most of the target areas are closer to New York City than to what I would consider North Jersey.  Today’s deal is for discounted dance lessons at “Dance with Me” in Ridgefield or Glen Head.  The savings is apparently 53%, and so far 7 people have bought into the deal.  There is a 25 person minimum.  The great thing about Groupon is how up front they are about the deals.  They share limitations, expirations, etc. right on the page so there’s no “fine print” to read through.

I think Groupon is probably a fabulous site if you live in a major city.  However, for us rural dwellers, I’d be a bit surprised to see anything come through I’d want to take advantage of.   Not going to rule it out, though, because I’m sure as more people sign up, Groupon will be able to expand into the smaller areas with some more targeted deals.  For now, it’s a great idea, and I can’t wait to see how it grows.

Confession:  I will admit that before Jared, my food tastes were pretty limited.  In my opinion, the most beautiful part about our relationship is the fact that we’ve encouraged one another to step out of our comfort zones and try new things.  Food happens to be the one area where I’ve really made some radical changes!

Since Jared’s step-mom is from the Middle East, we’re always looking for great restaurants that do justice to a Middle Eastern menu.  After all, when you’re used to eating the real thing from an authentic cook, you can’t go back!  Narenj Persian Grill in Basking Ridge consistently does a great job meeting this standard.

We first went to Narenj on a Sunday in October for a late lunch to celebrate Jared’s step mom’s birthday and again this past Friday for dinner with my fabulous cousin and her hubby.  Even though it was around 2 p.m., there were a few people lingering over lunch still.  The atmosphere was casual, with tables and booths nicely spaced.  Narenj is BYOB, with a wine and beer store only a few storefronts down.

The menu for Narenj is traditional, while still allowing for various options.  Since we were with a group, we chose to get an appetizer platter that included a choice of 4 appetizers.  I’ve found in the past that taking this option can sometimes cut down on how much sampling you can do of the choices on the platter, but Narenj does a great job catering to the number of people at the table from a portion perspective.

Entree choices ranged from wonderfully flavored kebabs to stews and several vegetarian options.  On both occasions, I had the kebabs, one time choosing lamb and the next chicken.  While both meats were very well flavored, I have to say I think the lamb was fantastic.  Served with a generous portion of rice, it was filling while not being overwhelming.  Portion sizes of rice are large, however, the meat portion is enough to fill about one kebab stick.

Desserts at Narenj are deliciously traditional, with a fabulous Baklava, along with an extremely fabulous Zulbia and Bamieh.  All desserts pair nicely with a Turkish Coffee, or a Persian Hot Brewed tea.

Overall, Narenj is a terrific, low-key option for lunch or dinner any time of the week.  With enough authenticity to please those that know the difference, I’d say it’s a great option no matter who is coming for dinner!

My Rating:  10/10

Narenj Persian Grill
25 Mountain View Blvd.
Basking Ridge, NJ 07320
908-580-0600
http://www.narenjpersiangrill.com

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly brand loyal when it comes to face wash.  In fact, over the course of these few years I’ve been writing, I’ve probably reviewed about 3-4 different facial cleansers.  All of them have worked great, and for that reason, I haven’t seen the need to stick with just one product.

I received a coupon for L’Oreal Go 360 Clean face wash, and decided to give it a try.  The commercial actually caught my attention with the little scrubber.  After reading about how wash cloths can hang onto a lot of bacteria, I’ve been looking for ways to wash without using one.  Sure, washing with just your hands is fine, but I always feel like I’m not quite doing a great job.

The Scrublet, as it is called, pops right out of the bottle for easy access and storage.  The Scrublet has a nice feel, with soft “bristles” for lack of a better word that are flexible and not too rough on your face.  I’m doing a poor job explaining them, but they’re like bendy little things that stick out of the disk.  Just look at the picture, lol!

The wash itself is gel based, which I haven’t used in awhile.  One small drop on the Scrublet works up an incredible lather.  And let’s face it, it’s fun to use.  Makes me feel like I’m getting a spa treatment each time I use it, which I think is the whole appeal to females like me.  The scent of the wash is a bit strange to me, but is apparently supposed to smell like naranji, orange flower, and mint.  I wouldn’t say I catch all of those, but it does smell clean and not too “medicine like.”

After using the disk and the wash, my face does feel noticeably smoother.  I haven’t had too many problems with breakouts yet since using, so I’ll consider that a success.  The only issue I am struggling with is some dryness, however, that could be attributed to weather changes as well.

For around $7 a bottle, I’m anxious to see how long this lasts.  While it’s definitely a nice wash and the Scrublet is neat, I’m honestly not sure I’m willing to pay that much for a face wash that works similarly to other ones I’ve used.  I have some concerns about the Scrublet being clean after so many uses, but I’m sure if I soak it in hot water once a week or so, that should take care of it!  Overall, it’s  a great product with great benefits; just not sure the cost is justified at this point in time.

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s more that goes into maintaining a healthy lifestyle beyond eating right and exercising.  Relationship health is a major contributing factor to staying on the right path.  If you’re not happy in your relationship, a lot of other areas of your life can suffer as well.

I recently came across an article that described the 6 habits that keep couples happy, and was happy to see #3 on the list:  Nurture your separate selves.  I’ve found through various message boards and other couple related sites that we can be a bit cruel to one another when it comes to desiring independence.  We often accuse those that desire to remain slightly independent from their partner of being selfish.  In fact, there are a lot of people that believe that in order to maintain a healthy relationship, all interests must be shared 24/7.  Forget going off alone for a girls weekend-if you’re not bonding with your partner over every turn, something must be wrong.

I’ve always been a big advocate for having individual interests and activities.  As the article states, taking “couple breaks” relieves your partner from having to “provide” happiness and enhances your relationship, allowing you a deeper appreciation of one another and your talents.  Imagine that…

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy to take time for yourself.  Since I’m away at the office for 10-12 hours a day 5 days a week, it can be tough to justify running off to a  solo shopping adventure or drinks with the girls.  However, it’s important to let go of that guilt and remember how refreshing independence can be.  In fact, I feel most refreshed in my relationship and personal life after a girls weekend or any other independent activity.  And that doesn’t make me a bad wife, or mean that Jared and I are drifting apart.  In fact, in the end, it only serves to bring us together. Even just an hour or so once a week spent doing separate activities can make a big impact on how you feel about one another, and ultimately, yourself.

The best part about moving?  New restaurant choices.  🙂  Last week, we decided to visit the Stone House Restaurant at Stirling Ridge.  I had seen this advertised in NJ Monthly, and the venue looked gorgeous.  The reviews on Yelp were pretty good, so we took a little drive over.

The pictures don’t lie.  The venue is absolutely beautiful.  The Stone House Restaurant is managed by Landmark Hospitality.  The Web site isn’t very clear about this, but I’m guessing Stirling Ridge is the events section, as they do have a Grand Ballroom and wedding options.  There was also a beautiful outdoor patio that would probably be very lovely when it’s not 50 degrees out.  I’m sure having an event there is expensive, but it really is beautiful.

Now, on to the actual restaurant, which was also very elegant without being stuffy.  The kitchen is open, and the whole interior features natural stone, as well as a beautiful floor to ceiling wine cellar.  We sat in a booth close to the door, which I was worried about at first with noise and drafts, but it actually proved to be quiet and comfortable.  Table seating was a bit cramped, so I’m glad we had the opportunity to sit alone instead of on top of other patrons.

The wait staff seemed young, but exceptionally knowledgeable.  The wines by the glass list was pretty versatile, considering it seemed like a place where they would push the bottles.  I started with a cheese platter, and Jared had an antipasta-type appetizer.  Our server gave us a selection of cheeses that complemented one another very well.  While the platter was a bit much for a one person starter, he was kind enough to wrap it up for us to take home.  Honey, fruit and bread made nice additions to the platter.

Dinner was absolutely phenomenal, and well timed.  The Stone House prides itself on creating meals based around local, market driven food buys.  The wait staff does an excellent job pointing out which dishes feature local vegetables, meat, etc.  Even though the kitchen seemed busy, the pace of the meal moved at very comfortable rate.  I had the pork chops with maple glazed sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts.  Pork chops are my usual, since they often come in a fabulous glaze with sweet potatoes.  Can I just say that these sweet potatoes were to die for?  And the brussel sprouts were fantastic-usually I’m not a huge fan, but these were like little baby ones that complemented the dish very well.  Overall, a fabulous presentation that matched the taste.

The dessert menu actually proved to be better than we thought.  Sometimes at restaurants like this, they only feature the usuals, with some seasonal fruit dessert that doesn’t appeal to us.  However, there was no way we were passing up the S’mores Brownie with ice cream.  A rich, chocolate brownie topped with some kind of marshmallow hardened glaze?  To die for.  And the tea and coffee list did not dissapoint either.

While the Stone House ended up becoming more crowded towards the end of our dinner, our server and the wait staff in general did not seem to ignore anyone to the point of annoyance.  It’s nice to go to a restaurant that takes care of your needs from start to finish, keeping things moving, while also giving you time to relax and enjoy a lovely Friday evening.

My Rating:  10/10

Stone House at Stirling Ridge
50 Stirling Road
Warren, NJ 07060
908-754-1222
http://www.stonehouseatstirlingridge.com/restaurant.html

Note:  While I typically like to provide links to a recent menu, the Stone House actually does a terrible job putting this information on their site.  Menus listed are from 2009, and don’t open on any computer I’ve tried!

I talk a lot about shopping online and getting great deals.  In fact, I would actually go so far as to say I’m borderline obsessed with searching for the best prices and coupons.  I have my standards that I’ve mentioned before, like Ebates and Overstock, however, as we begin to decorate a bit more in our new house, I’ve had to expand my horizons a bit to find exactly what I need.

ShopSmart magazine‘s October issue spoke right to me with their “6 New Ways to Save” article.  I was a bit surprised they didn’t mention cash back type sites, but the article was really focused primarily on getting the lowest price, not necessarily the best coupons.  Since I’m a former search engine junkie (and still think I put together a mean search term), I was interested in their first tip regarding using search engines to shop.  The winner out of the four sites they tested was PriceGrabber, a site I have admittedly never used.

In my continuing obsession to find the perfect scarf valances for our living room (because the ones I bought from Overstock just aren’t doing it for me), I decided to give PriceGrabber a try.  The site has a very simple layout, with a huge search box right at the top, making it easy to get started.  While a search for “288 inch scarf valance” only brought up two options I hadn’t already seen, they actually turned out to be exactly what I was looking for, for the right price.  Clicking on the product takes you right to the manufacturer’s Web site where you can continue to shop.

I can see myself becoming obsessed with this site.  PriceGrabber features a deal of the day, where you could save up to 55% or more (today’s deal is a volt impact driver…not super exciting, but a great price!).  When you register for an account, you have the ability save products as you browse.  I think I’d have to do a lot of shopping to make that useful, but still a nice feature for those of us with a poor memory.

For the coupon lover in us all, there is a section featuring merchant coupons.  The list is ridiculously extensive, today featuring 294 coupons.  With the ability to select a merchant from the drop down list, this is a great way to consolidate deals in one place without clicking around too much.

Overall, I can see why PriceGrabber was rated #1 by Shop Smart magazine for being a great place to start your search.  With community features, reviews, coupons, extensive shopping categories and quick search functionality, PriceGrabber could be the first and last place you need to go to start your online shopping engine.

Oh, and did I mention there’s an App for that?

I recently read an article in Self about the “Secrets of Happy Eaters” and it got me thinking about the way I approach food versus how Jared approaches food.

According to the article, about 75% of women eat, think and behave abnormally about food.  I’m not surprised by this at all.  For instance, compare a food outing you’ve recently had with your girlfriends to one you might have had with just your boyfriend/spouse/brother/guy friends.  In most cases, I would imagine your girlfriend outing led to more self-deprication in the eating arena than an outing with your guy friend.  (Hence why I love going out to eat with my guy friends….less guilt!).

In all of these instances, however, we are completely responsible for how we think about the way we eat.  Hence the term Happy Eater. I would describe most guys as happy eaters, such as Jared.  Some traits?  The article states that happy eaters:

A lot about this article hit home for me with the way I think about food versus the way someone like Jared might think about food.  When we go out to eat, Jared never beats himself up the next day over what he ate, or how many hours he needs to exercise to work it off.  He approaches exercise and healthy eating with a “This is the healthy thing to do and it feels good” attitude that I wish I could adopt, rather than the “I must do this to lose 30 pounds” mentality.

Let me stress that being a happy eater by no means signifies that you eat whatever you want to, and gain weight with abandon.  Happy eaters are aware of what’s healthy, and what’s not, which makes them more successful overall at keeping food in perspective.

By following the advice laid out in this article, I think we, as females, can begin to create a culture of happy eaters who can relish food while still maintaining a healthy, positive weight and outlook on eating.   So, next time you get together with your girlfriends or are eating alone, for that matter, keep in mind these 25% of women who have a positive relationship to food and make it your mission to increase that number!

I’ve already sung the praises of Verizon FIOS and their awesome workout options.  And, I have FIOS to thank for leading me to my Friday feature!

I read about Exercise TV months ago in SELF magazine, but to be honest, with the way our internet connection was in Bedminster, there was no way I was interested in working out on a small little computer screen that took forever to load.  However, seeing their videos on FIOS intrigued me again, and I was very pleased with what I found on their site.

First and foremost, they do a fantastic job of driving people to their site.  The workouts that I chose to do had a calendar that you could print for a full plan available online.  Um, yes please!  Once I was there, I discovered there were a wealth of plans you could print online that correlated with what was on your On Demand service.

If you’re not as cool as me and don’t have FIOS, that’s ok.  You still can watch full length workout videos right on the site, as long as you don’t mind the small screen.  The options seem pretty diverse, which is great for a free service.  Even better, the ones I checked out are the right balance of challenging while not being over the top.

The Premium Pass is a new paid feature offered through the site that offers workout and nutrition plans that can be done easily from home.  It seems that plans start at around $10/month, and offer things like video download credits, 200 workouts, plans and playlists.  The highest plan goes for around $130 for 6 months and includes advanced features like a meal plan, subscription to SELF magazine, and ask the expert features.  Can’t say whether or not things like this are worth it-I guess it depends on what you need!  I will say this, though, considering some sports clubs can cost that per month, this might be a better option!

Exercise TV has really helped me kick my boring workout routines to the curb, with the option to offer variety in easily searchable fashions.  Since I’m nursing a pretty major knee injury, my focus has been on upper body and core, and the site and TV make it easy to find workouts that fit this need.

Happy Fat Burning!

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