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I’ll admit it:  “Cellfire” as the name of a Web site automatically makes me think of companies spamming my phone.  Luckily, first impressions are not always correct!

If you shop at Shop Rite, Kroger’s, Safeway, Giant Eagle, Shop’nSave or Foodtown, you should be signed up for this site.  Jared and I first discovered it through Fios TV, and I think the concept is awesome.  By registering with the site, you are able to register your store loyalty cards and add coupons directly to the card.  No more coupon clipping or searching for coupons you’ve misplaced (Disclaimer:  I’m still a coupon clipper, and my system is so organized it would make your head spin.  But I digress).  Simply log on, add the coupons you want to your card, and the discounts will be automatically taken at checkout.

The site has a multitude of ways to keep consumers connected to the coupons they choose, whether it’s online, through your TV or through a mobile app.  The offers are for popular brands that you might shop for anyway, making it worth the time to sign up and browse.  The site also features a section that allows you to print coupons by installing an App onto your computer.

I’m desperate to use this site and all its features, but for some reason Jared and I are having a problem with our Shop Rite card, where the site doesn’t seem to recognize it.  We’ve noticed this before too in Shop Rite when they try to look us up, so I think the problem is on our end.  Once I’ve got it up and running properly, I’ll be sure to share any hints and tricks I’ve found when using the site!

Anyone else currently using this with success?  Or have you had trouble as well?

I remember standing in a Crumbs bakery a few months ago, staring down the delicious rows of icing and cake.  Along with the cheerful decorations and fluffy icing mounds also came the “sticker shock”-and I’m not talking about price.  That’s right, friends.  Right there, next to my mounds of joy, was listed the calorie count for each cupcake.

My immediate reaction was “I don’t want to know.”  And I’ll be honest-there are still times when I don’t want to know.  Sometimes, when you’re celebrating something special or just want to treat yourself, I don’t really think it’s bad to eat something with abandon and not care about its fat or calorie content.  In fact, I’d go as far as to say that denying yourself all the time has negative effects on your weight loss.  But that’s another story!

However, living with the Weight Watchers plan has taught me to be a lot more aware of what I choose to eat when we eat out.  When I first started this blog, we were eating out up to 2-3 nights a week, sometimes more depending on where we went over the weekend.  We started cutting back on that as I started counting calories again, and since I started Weight Watchers, we’ve cut down to only eating out once a week.

Some restaurant chains have nutrition information available on their Web sites.  Sometimes, you have to dig for it, and with places like  Rita’s that give ranges, it can be hard to figure out what fits into my plan.  That’s why I was excited to see that the FDA recently announced its latest proposal regarding menu nutrition labeling.

To summarize:  “The proposed rules would apply to restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations, and vending machine operators with 20 or more machines. Consumers would see calories listed in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Movie theaters, airplanes, bowling alleys and other establishments whose primary purpose is not to sell food would not be subject to these proposed regulations.”
I’m psyched about this, and think that more places, particularly local establishments, should be required to provide this information on their Web sites or elsewhere.  Since we don’t frequent any chain restaurants, this won’t really help me too much, but I do hope it’s a step in the right direction for food establishments as a whole.  In fact, knowing I could find out nutritional information about menu items before I eat somewhere would encourage me to choose one restaurant over another one with no information.
What do you think about menu nutrition labeling requirements?  Do you just not want to know, or do you think it would help you make better choices?  While I can’t say that I’ll always pay strict attention to it while eating out, it’s certainly helpful for vacations and other times when eating out is the only option!

Yes, I know.  Fashion is not a usual topic for me.  I prefer hiding my body under layers of denim, or thick dress pants.  However, when you have a twin sister that starts dressing cooler than you do, you find yourself in need of stepping it up.  Oh, and losing 17 pounds and having no clothes that fit doesn’t help either when it comes to hiding behind my usuals.  But that’s for another post altogether.

After trying on a pair of my sisters LC Lauren Conrad leggings from Kohl’s, I knew I had to have them.  I’ll admit, the fabric is a bit thin, and I’m still getting used to wearing something so form fitting, so I’m struggling a bit with being self-conscious about it.  However, with a long tunic-style top covering all the areas I want covered (butt, thighs) I could see these leggings become a staple in my weekend/going out wardrobe.  Oh, and it got the mom stamp of approval, instead of a “hmmm, I don’t know about those.”  🙂

On Saturday, I got 2 pairs for only $9.99 each.  Online they are about $2 more, however, they are still a great deal.  While I have definitely been known to say that leggings should not be worn by people of “my size”,  the size of this particular pair is comfortable for those of us with larger lower bodies; most form-fitting items like this only serve to remind me of my big hips and thighs, but these do a pretty good job covering without making you feel like you’re totally exposed.  I’ve paired mine with a mock layer top very similar to this one.  The length of the top really seems to help balance it out.

While I’m certainly no shopping expert, these seemed like a pretty great deal, and are super comfortable to wear.  Anyone else find a great pair of leggings recently?  What do you pair yours with?

Thanks to Hip2Save, I’m discovering all sorts of fun sites lately.  Yesterday, I saw a notice about House Party on the Facebook feed.  After some exploration of Hip2Save’s blog post and the House Party site, I thought it would be a fun site to share.

The concept is pretty cool:  House Party lists a number of different events sponsored by various brands that are looking to get the word out about their products.  As a member of the House Party site, you apply online to act as host for the various events.  If you are chosen, you get some free stuff and great products to use.  All you have to do is host the party!

So what’s the catch?  Parties do have to be hosted on a specific day, so if you’re booked for like months on end like we always seem to be, it might be hard to find something cool to host.  Also, there is no guarantee you’ll be chosen.  Basically, it seems as if you have to meet certain requirements, and there are only so many party packages to go around.  Also, you are expected to be an active part of the community, sharing photos and information from your party.  Fun for a blogger like me, but probably not a real incentive for most other people.

I’m super into this concept.  Number one, because I like free things, and number two, because it’s a great excuse to get people together.  My only concern is not getting enough people to attend!  While most of the upcoming parties are on dates that I wouldn’t be able to host, I’ll be on the look out for some fun ones.

Who’s in??  Would anyone come to something like this, or is it annoying?  Feedback, please!  Otherwise, I’ll update once I have my first party 🙂

I don’t know how many other people do this, but every time we visit a new area, we always think we’ll just find restaurants as we’re walking around to wander in to and enjoy.  Sometimes, that’s easy.  However, during off season in Cape May, it’s not!  I had done a bit of research before our trip, and written down a few restaurants, however, many of them ended up still being closed for the season.   After asking around at the Cape May Winery, we decided to have dinner at Axelsson’s Blue Claw Restaurant.

Funny enough, Jared had actually also been here with his parents when he visited Cape May years ago.  To be honest, in my research I had been avoiding strict seafood restaurants, as I’m not a huge seafood fan.  Not easy to do when you’re visiting a shore town.  I was a bit nervous that Axelsson’s wouldn’t have anything that would not only fit with my Weight Watchers plan, but that would also leave me feeling satisfied.  I was happy to find that the menu was diverse enough to include seafood options that weren’t too over the top “fishy” so to speak.  We settled on the Fromage as an appetizer (because who can resist brie??).   For an entree, I had the crabcakes and Jared had the seafood kabob, a totally new pick for him!

The food was fantastic at Axelsson’s.  The man we talked to at the winery had told us that “you can’t go wrong with anything you get there” and he was right.  The service was friendly and attentive without rushing you through, although it was a busy night.  They did seat us right by the piano, which I thought would annoy Jared, but the music blended in nicely and wasn’t overpowering to the point where you can’t talk.  While we did skip dessert, we had a full view of the station where these were being made, and they looked wonderful!  Although Axelsson’s is about a 5-10 minute drive from where we were staying, it was definitely worth the trip (however, if we had to give up parking, I might change my mind about that!!).

After our fabulous dinner, we returned to the Carroll Villa and hit up The Mad Batter for dessert.  Jared had been talking about a white chocolate mousse for days that he remembered having as a kid, and lucky him, it was still on the menu.  The Mad Batter bar was alive with groups of people hanging out, listening to the live music, so we ended up sitting at an actual table.  Jared was correct about the White Chocolate Mousse-it was worth the points.  Topped with whipped cream, strawberries, and a light strawberry sauce, the mousse was creamy, with bits of white chocolate in it, and so rich I almost couldn’t finish it (and I never say that!).  Definitely worth it!

Our trip included a voucher for brunch at The Mad Batter, so we returned the next morning to sit in the “sun room” type portion of the restaurant.  The Mad Batter had a great assortment of brunch-type libations, such as mimosas and bellinis, along with a pretty extensive menu.  The food was your typical brunch fare, but I’d certainly go back to check out the dinner options.  All around, a great experience with The Carroll Villa and The Mad Batter!

While The Mad Batter did not take reservations while we were there for brunch, it’s worth an ask in the summer if they do.  The restaurant was pretty busy for off-season, so I’d call ahead if you’re visiting during a busy time.

Looking for more options?  Find more Cape May restaurants here.    Happy eating, travelers!

 

I typically avoid blogs about coupons and deals, because I usually find them either irrelevant, or spammy.  Sometimes I’ll find relevant deals on them, but most times, I’m not really interested in having someone regurgitate what they find in circulars.

Hip2Save bills itself as “Not Your Grandma’s Coupon Site”.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with regular coupon clipping-it’s an activity I engage in each week, and is pretty much one of the only reasons we get the Sunday paper.  However, Hip2Save does put a fresh spin on saving money and having fun seeking out deals and more.

Hip2Save focuses on Freebies, Coupons, Stores, Online Deals, Restaurants, Rewards and Contests, so it really covers the full spectrum of ways to save.  The Freebies section is updated pretty frequently, even alerting you to when older deals have expired.  The links are easy to follow, and the rules for redeeming freebies are spelled out so there’s no surprises.  For the Coupons section, it looks like Hip2Save links over to Coupons.com in most instances, where you can print deals and coupons.  I haven’t tried Coupons.com yet, because I believe you need to install something to print them, but perhaps one of these days I’ll get around to doing that.  Coupons.com seems like a great alternative for those that don’t receive paper coupons.

The Online Bargains section is one of my favorites.  Hip2Save does a great job of alerting readers to timely deals and sales, instead of you having to do the legwork yourself.  They find some great stuff, like an Amazon deal on a KitchenAid mixer and more.  It’s fun to check in every now and then to see what’s new online.

I’m huge on Contests, and am convinced that one of these days I’ll win one.  By keeping up with the Contest section on Hip2Save, I’m able to see what’s new besides my usuals.  I won’t enter contests from brands that I don’t normally interact with, just because I think that’s cheating, but it does introduce me to some new things.  And contests are fun.  Seriously.  Even when I don’t win.

There’s a lot more to explore on the site.  Hip2Save is a really well done site that makes coupon hunting and online deals fun and meaningful.  Even if you just check in once a week, it’s definitely worth adding it to your list of must-read blogs and sites.  Thanks to Collin Morgan, the brains behind the site, for providing such a quality experience!

With all the discount sites available out there these days, who ever wants to pay full price for anything?  Certainly not me.  My latest obsession in the land of online discount shopping revolves around Rue La La.

My sister sent me an invitation to Rue La La before I got married, and to be honest, I kind of ignored it.  Designer clothes?  Who needed those anyway.  More recently, my cousin sent me an invitation, and out of sheer boredom one afternoon, I signed up.  After all, people have signed up for all sorts of things for me, I might as well give this another try, right?

Obsessed.  I’m not a label freak, by any means.  I just like nice things.  Rue La La is like an emporium of nice things at prices that normal people can afford.

Here’s how it works:  once you join, you receive access to premier brand, private sale boutiques that are open for a limited amount of time.  Rue La La seeks to provide members with a “well-edited collection of sought-after offerings from the best brand names in the world.”  The best way to make sure you take advantage of the great sales right away is to receive the daily email that lists the featured “Boutiques” of the day.  Recent boutiques have included Elie Tahari, L.A.M.B, Calvin Klein and La Perla.

So are you really getting a discount?  In my opinion, yes.  For instance, today there is an L.A.M.B crossboy originally priced at $158 marked down to $79.90.  I’m sure if I knew more about designers and brands, I’d have more to say about the discounts, but in my opinion, it’s a great way to shop luxury on a mid-career budget.

But, to my surprise and delight, Rue La La is not just for clothes.  They are expanding their local deals section, which so far has included restaurant deals and spa services.  Additionally, I’ve seen some great deals on gourmet treats and wines, as well as vacations and home decor items.  So, even if you’re not a label hog, there’s still something for everyone!

While I haven’t bought anything yet and can’t speak to the service element of Rue La La, I have heard great things about it so far.  Why haven’t I bought yet?  Well, I’m on a budget, for sure, so I’ve been waiting for the perfect thing.  Also, I have to admit, I’m always leery of buying clothes online, due to my figure.  But, one of these days, maybe I’ll find that perfect thing!

Wanna get in?  You can!  Visit http://www.ruelala.com/invite/vberger06 and let the “Ohh la la” begin!

My boss and I have become pretty obsessed with working out and eating better.  In fact, I think the men in our office are sick of hearing about Jackie Warner, and Smart Ones, and snack time.

One of them mentioned to us a few weeks back that he had heard on the radio that essentially, unless you moved around frequently during the day, working out wouldn’t really be that effective.  Impossible, I thought.  I mean, I know sitting for long periods at a time is not good for you, but seriously, how are people with office jobs ever supposed to be healthy?  This can’t be true.

Then Jared sent me this article from USA Today that confirms the entire story.  The study confirmed what we already know:  that people who sit for long periods of time are at a higher risk of heart disease than those who take frequent breaks.  The study then goes on to say that “the negative effects of lengthy bouts of inactivity seem to apply even to those who go to the gym.”

In summary, in order to stem off negative side effects like bigger waistlines, high blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol, we need to accumulate activity throughout the day.  The good news is that the study saw positive results for those that took frequent breaks, even if they did spend a lot of time sitting (i.e., all of us office workers).

So how do we incorporate more activity into our daily work routines?  Most suggestions include parking a bit further from the building, taking the stairs, getting up to talk to a colleague instead of emailing them.  Some studies even suggest taking a short walk during “lunch” or standing while on the phone.  While it can be difficult to add things like a walk to some routines, just remember that no matter what you chose to do, every little bit helps.  So, get up and go!

I mentioned The Beer Mapping Project when I was talking about Egan & Sons recently, and felt this site deserved a bit more exploration.  As I mentioned, Jared is pretty familiar with this site in his constant quest to find quality beers in our area.  There are a lot of great features on this site, so I’ll highlight just a few of them in this post.

1.)  Location Lookup:  This is great for people that travel a lot or simply want to get a bit more familiar with breweries, beer bars, home brew options, beer stores or brewpubs.  Simply type in a city or zip code, and a list will populate with the option to sort by the type of venue you are looking for.  I had to search using just New Jersey, since a zip code search wasn’t giving any results for me.  Still a great way to find places in the area, just make sure you refine your search.  And again, perfect if you’re in an unfamiliar city and need a place to eat and drink!

2.)  Beer Trip Planner:  This is a beer lover’s personal heaven-the ability to plan a trip centered around quality beer drinking.  Simply type in a city, name, or postal code, and a list will populate with suggested options in the area.  Add that to your list, and once you are done adding, the site takes you to Google Maps for directions. Pretty sweet. Once again, a great way to plan a trip!

3.)  City Beer Maps:  If you live in, or are planning to visit a big city and need help finding a great place to have a beer, this is another search function that makes that super easy.  Simply click on your city, and a map loads which pinpoints different types of beer establishments around the city.  I chose New York, and each listing allows you to click through for more details.

Whoever came up with the idea for this site should really be Jared’s best friend.  Seriously, Jared is addicted to this site.  I could go on and on about the fabulous features of this site.  But it would take days.  And we have drinking to do.  So, off with you to search!

My sister and I were discussing the scale this morning, and it got me thinking about whether or not it was wise to have a scale accessible every day if you’re trying to lose weight.  My scale is in the bathroom, so I can step on it whenever I want.  My sister uses the scale at the gym and weighs in every week.  So, my question is, for people that struggle with body image issues, which is the better method:  mine or my sisters?

When I struggled with an eating disorder in college, I’d have to go to the health center to be weighed once a week to see if I was gaining.  When they weighed me, they made me stand backwards on the scale so I wouldn’t see the numbers.  Psychologically, they knew I couldn’t handle it.  And they were right.  Truth be told, I wonder if that’s still the case today.  Sometimes, I find myself using the scale for “motivation”.  Even if the number is up by 1/10 of a pound, I immediately begin to tell myself that if I keep this up, I’ll never lose weight, and begin to think I’m disgustingly obese with no hope of ever losing.  Not really the best self talk, huh?  My sister finds that even though she lost a pound this week, she’s still frustrated with the slow progress and wishes she could weigh herself every day.  However, her boyfriend fears she’ll turn such a ritual into unhealthy habits such as food deprivation and poor self image.

Opinions on this vary online.  Some articles say that weighing yourself every day can contribute to long-term weight loss, while others say that since your weight fluctuates so much daily and even weekly, it’s not such a good idea.  The article linked to above actually says both in the same write up!  While some women are able to use the scale as positive motivation, women that struggle with disordered eating may have the tendency to turn the scale into their worst nightmare.

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind these tips when you come face to face with your scale:

1.)  Weigh yourself in the morning after you’ve been to the bathroom, with no clothes on.  If you’re going to weigh yourself once a day, or once a week, make sure you’re weighing yourself at the same time consistently for the most accurate reading.

2.)  Keep in mind that things like eating a big meal, eating meals high in sodium, etc. can cause your weight to fluctuate during the day.  Resist the urge to weigh yourself more than once a day at different times.

3.)  If you find that jumping on the scale each day is causing you to obsess in an unhealthy fashion over your weight, put the scale out of sight.  Take it out once a week to weigh in, or have a friend/partner do the weigh ins for you so you don’t see the numbers.

4.)  Remember that weight can sometimes be an inaccurate measure of your health.  Take measurements monthly on your waist size, or whatever else you’re interested in, and be sure to factor in your BMI as a guide.

Whatever your method for tracking your weight loss, remember that depriving your body of the nutrients found in food is counterproductive to losing weight.  Whatever the number, never let yourself get so frustrated that you stop eating!  Be realistic about your calorie needs to ensure that your body does not start storing fat instead of burning it.