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Does anyone else feel like they always overlook the places that are closest to them when it comes to eating out?  Jared and I are definitely guilty of that, searching wide and far for places when there are plenty of nice options less than 10 minutes away.

After passing Bolu for the hundreth time last weekend, I mentioned that I wanted to try it.  Jared’s mom came to help him with the garden on Monday, so that seemed like the perfect time to check it out.  Billed as a Trattoria with traditional brick oven pizza and antipasta, we figured we couldn’t go wrong.

Bolu is located right off Route 78  in Basking Ridge.  Located in a shopping center that also includes another restaurant we’ve checked out, the location is pretty convenient for us.  The inside of Bolu is cozy and welcoming.  While it wasn’t very busy the day we went, the atmosphere was relaxing and inviting.

Bolu prides itself on using organic, fresh, local ingredients whenever possible.  While I’m certainly not fanatical about things being organic, I think it’s nice to be able to take people somewhere where everything is made fresh and not just taken out of a box.  The menu at Bolu has a lot to offer-from salads to individual pizzas to an antipasto bar, it’s a great compromise for families or groups with different tastes and dietary needs.

It took me awhile to figure out what to get.  None of the salads were really grabbing my attention, so after painfully looking away from the pasta dishes, I decided on the Arugula Pizza with a multi-grain crust.  Jared’s mom chose the same pizza, both of us getting an individual size, and Jared chose the Rustica individual pizza.

The individual pizzas come with about 6 small slices.  I’m rocking the other half for leftovers this week

Bolu Arugula Pizza

Behold the glory of fresh leftovers!

, so I definitely think these can be shared among 2 people for a small meal.  Although I will admit that in  my former non-Weight Watchers hey day, I could have polished off the entire thing.  The pizza was beautiful, with fresh arugula and tomatoes with a generous coating of cheese, making it light, yet satisfying.  The crust was delicious as well and not too dry like some multi-grain options can be!

Dessert options were a bit slim here, with some traditional items as well as gelato.  We opted not to go for dessert, since nothing really caught or eye.

Service was attentive, yet definitely relaxed in pace.  As I mentioned, there were not a lot of people there, but things definitely moved slow.  I’m guessing that’s because they make everything to order.  From the looks of the open kitchen, they do a great take-out business, which is definitely something to keep in mind for great-tasting pizza.  Although the options are a bit more expensive than traditional pizzerias, you know you’re getting something fresh.

Bolu is BYO, however, if you forget, there is a wine store in the same complex.  With plenty of parking and a lovely looking outdoor seating area, Bolu is definitely a great option for antipasto, pizza, or homemade pasta.

Trattoria Bolu
25 Mountainview Blvd.
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
908-647-0033

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 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!

 

Given the title of this blog and my previous posts, I think all of you know that Jared and I appreciate a nice, quality craft beer.  As I’ve mentioned, one of the hardest things about Weight Watchers for me initially was cutting out having a nice pint once or twice a week.  For the beers that Jared and I enjoy, Weight Watchers assigns 5 points to a 12 oz. glass, whereas wine is only 4 points for 5 ounces.  If I choose to drink during the week, I almost always choose the lower points value and go with wine, which eliminates beer almost entirely from my rotation.

Weight Watchers does assign only 3 points to light beer.  However, I have never really found a light beer that is worth drinking.  The Bud Lights and Miller Lights of the world are not worth the points to me, so I thought I was doomed to cutting out beer altogether, unless we were celebrating a special occassion.

Fitness Magazine had a list recently listing the best light beers, which obviously caught my attention.  However, when I saw that the “winner” was Bud Light, I seriously had to question if the people that made this list even LIKED or understood real beer at all.  I almost chose not to look through the list at all, given their top choice, but I browsed through and found that Sam Adams Light was their First Runner Up.  Now, Sam Adams is a real beer.  Could this be possible?  I was intrigued to try the light version, and I’m happy to say that it is a fine substitute to my usual Stella, Yuengling or Magic Hat.

Sam Adams Light could certainly never replace the insanely hoppy, flavorful taste of a real craft brew, but for people that enjoy the taste of beer, it is most definitely a great alternative, providing enough complex flavor to make you feel like you’re indulging without the guilt and points.

Anyone else have any suggestions for a decent light beer?  Miller, Coors, and Bud need not apply……

Thanks to Living Social, Jared and I recently had the opportunity to check out Cape May, New Jersey for the first time (well, my first time-Jared was there as a kid).  As we walked around, I started thinking about all the great places we’ve been to in New Jersey that might get overlooked for those of us that live in-state.  Hence my new mission to tell you about them as we go along.  🙂

We covered a lot of ground while we were in Cape May, so I’ll start today by reviewing the lodging that we used.  The next set of installments will cover dining and area attractions.  We don’t want a super long post, after all!

The Carroll Villa Bed and Breakfast
The deal we purchased included a one night stay at the Carol Villa Bed and Breakfast, located less than a block from the beach.  Upon arrival, we received our complimentary bottle of champagne, as well as some coupons to area attractions (all part of our deal).  The check-in attendant was very friendly and made us feel welcome.

While the room we stayed in was certainly a bit small, it worked fine for us since we didn’t spend too much time in it anyway.  The shower had great pressure, and the bathroom was very clean and well kept.  Our room was right above The Mad Batter, the restaurant at The Carroll Villa, and during the live music, it was a bit noisy.  As in we could hear the specific songs the singer was performing.  However, we got back to our room around 9:45 p.m., and it all seemed to stop by 10.  If you’re sensitive to noise, though, as I know many are, this may not be the place for you!  I believe there are rooms on the other side of the hotel, so I would ask about those just to make sure.

Given that it was off-season, we were able to find parking about a block away.  In the summer, I can definitely imagine that parking is a challenge for guests at The Carroll Villa.  If you’re planning to stay in the summer, I would recommend calling ahead to find out what is recommended.

As mentioned, The Caroll Villa does have a restaurant, The Mad Batter, which is a great restaurant with a modest bar as well.  I’ll talk about this more in dining, but our deal did included a breakfast voucher, and we liked the convenience of having something right there.

Overall, The Caroll Villa was a beautiful place to stay, with an at-home feel that made even our short stay relaxing and comfortable.  If you’re thinking of vacationing somewhere this summer, I’d call early-I’m sure they book up pretty fast!  Thanks to Living Social and The Carroll Villa for helping us find out what Cape May has to offer!

I’ve written in the past about our visits to some Somerville, NJ restaurants.  For those of you not in the area, Somerville is the county seat of Somerset County, and isn’t too far from our house in Martinsville.  Every time we drive through Somerville, I’m always charmed a bit by the old-school downtown feel.  However, as Main Street America as we know it is quickly fading away, and I love when towns do all they can to help draw people into the local feel of our downtowns.

Find Somerville is a great Web site that takes you through everything Somerville has to offer, from restaurants to shopping to nearby attractions.  The restaurant search is pretty thorough, listing everything from Pizza Hut to their upscale restaurants like Il Pomodoro.  Jared and I are looking for someplace to go tonight, and this list will certainly make that choice easy!

The Find Shopping search works the same way, listing the many shopping options Somerville offers.  Somerville is a great spot to try if you like antiques, as each street seems to offer a plethora of stores that deal in antiques.  A small savings section clues you in to ways you can save at restaurants and stores alike.

While Somerville seems to have a bit of a ways to go as they revitalize their downtown and try to fill empty lots, I applaud the efforts they are making through this Web site.  A great resource for those in Somerset County and beyond!

Money is tight for everyone these days.  While some are fortunate enough to have a gym in their apartment building or work building, for those of us without those resources, it can be hard to justify a gym membership.  I’ve been doing home workouts for about 3 years now.  While it can be hard to find a video that makes you work hard enough to feel it, Fitness Magazine just made it easier for all of us with our own home gyms!

The Top 10 Workout Videos for 2011 breaks down the best of the best as far as home workouts are concerned, providing variety as well as a great workout.  From Bob Harper to Jackie Warner to Jillian Michaels to Denise Austin, this list really includes something for everyone.  Fitness Magazine even broke down the amount of calories you would burn, as well as what you need, and included a snippet from each video.

This is really one of the best resources I’ve seen in awhile.  After reading this list, I was super tempted to go out and buy all the ones I haven’t tried (I’ve tried Jillian’s 6 week 6 pack as well as Jackie’s XTreme Timesaver Workout).  While it can certainly add up, as some of these videos cost up to $20 not counting some of the equipment you might need, if working out at home is your main source of exercise, it’s certainly worth the investment.  For now, I’ll hope  that I win the pack of 10, although I’m sure that’s a long shot. 🙂

I haven’t checked to see if any of these are available on Netflix, but that’s another great option if you’re looking to try before you buy as well as find something that motivates you to work hard at home.  Thanks to Fitness Magazine for such a great resource list and for remembering those of us without access to gym equipment that still like to work hard!

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!

I knew Jared and I were meant to be when he shared with me how much he loved filling out forms.  I couldn’t agree more.  Especially when that particular form is a survey.  Who doesn’t love sharing their opinions for points or cash?  I personally can’t pass up the opportunity to sign up to provide my thoughts on anything from new products to technology to advertisements.  ZoomPanel is just another site that lets us fill out forms to our hearts’ content.

ZoomPanel is operated by the wonderful people of Zoomerang.  If you’re not using Zoomerang for your business to deploy surveys and analyze results, you’re really missing out on an inexpensive way to get feedback from your customers or prospects.  But that’s for another day.

ZoomPanel is a community of consumers who “share opinions and insights about companies’ products and services by participating in market research studies.”  It’s free to join, and you’re rewarded with points, instant win prizes, sweepstakes, and more.  Points can be redeemed through the Zoom Panel Rewards Center for anything from magazine subscriptions to jewelry to home goods.  While it does seem as if it will take forever to reach certain points levels, a lot of survey sites operate the same way.

Points are awarded any time you take a survey, even if you don’t fit the requirements set by the marketer to move on.  Depending on how far you get, surveys can take up to 30 minutes.  Each short profile survey you fill out enters you for a chance to win $500 as well as be eligible for more surveys based on the demographic information needed.

Maybe I just love these types of sites because I like forms and marketing, but it’s definitely a great way to get rewarded while also making your voice heard.  While I have yet to redeem any points from any of the sites I’m signed up for, I’m sure they are true to their word as far as points redemption goes.  Stay tuned for that, once I actually accumulate more points!  Sign up today, and start sharing! Enjoy!

Just when you thought I was finished writing about online discount sites…..

As we all know by now, I’m a bit addicted to online shopping and deals, so I LOVE when emails from sites like Groupon and Living Social show up in my Inbox.  Even if I don’t buy anything, I just like having the option.  A friend of mine recently posted a link on her Facebook profile to Eversave.  Since I always post links to the sites I belong to, and want people to sign up so I can get referral bonuses, I thought I might as well help her out!

There aren’t too many differences among Eversave and the other coupon sites out there.  The referral program seems a bit better (just for signing up I got a $2 credit toward a purchase), but other than that, it’s the same theme:  sign up, get daily emails, buy, and save.  If you refer friends, you get $10 once they make their first purchase.  Pretty decent reward, if your friends remember they signed up for it….

I’m signed up for Eversave NYC, and the deals I’ve gotten so far have all been discounts for e-tailers, which is actually better for me than any NYC deals, since it’s highly unlikely I’d go to the city to take advantage of them.  The sites are all pretty unique and botique-like, so it’s been fun reading through and seeing what they have to offer.

From a location perspective, Eversave has some work to do.  As of today, there were only about 55 locations across the United States, most of them focused around cities.  This hasn’t seemed to matter yet, as I haven’t seen too many deals that can’t be redeemed online, but it would be nice for one site to penetrate the rural areas a bit better than the other sites have done.  It would certainly set them apart.

Another way Eversave is trying to differentiate itself is through the Savings Center, which lists coupons and other deals and integrates with Coupon.com.  I’ve personally never used Coupon.com, because you have to install this special print application, but I might consider doing it just to get some variety in my off-line coupon clipping.  I’d like this feature better if I could add the coupons to my store card and have the deals deducted automatically at check out.  But I won’t judge.

Besides printable coupons, the Savings Center gives you the opportunity to sign up to take surveys, get discounts from clothing stores, and some cool contests and giveaways.  I’m a bit leery of signing up for anything yet, but it might tempt me eventually….

I know what you’re thinking-there’s only so many emails with deals I can stand, Valarie.  That’s ok.  But for those of us that really love to shop, and really love to save, what’s one more discount to browse through each morning?

Sign up here, and start saving!

 

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