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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Boyfriend Lives in Raleigh Now

Two weeks ago my boyfriend moved to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. You remember Rob, right? We went to Cleveland in May and on a Birthday Brewery Tour in December. 

After a few weeks of freaking out over the logistics of a long distance relationship, I calmed down things calmed down. We found him an apartment the last weekend in August, and then moved his stuff into the apartment the first weekend in September. The next weekend he moved, and two weeks later I visited him at his new apartment. That was this weekend. Should I draw up a timeline?

Friday night we stayed in and had wine and cheese. Saturday it was rainy all day, but we went to Durham anyway to explore the American Tobacco Campus. The following photos are from Durham, aka the Bull City.


Our first stop was the Burts Bees Headquarters where we looked at some bees. After about 15 minutes of searching I gave up looking for the queen.


There is a stream running through the campus. It starts out small at the northern end of campus, where Rob is in the photo above, and it ends up as a giant waterfall outside of the Art Institute at the south end of campus.




Throughout the campus there are multiple points of interest. The photo above shows a life-size chess game. The lower photo is a fountain made from row of beer taps.



This sign is at the southern entrance to the campus.


The Durham Bulls Stadium is across the street.


This is a photo of us in the stadium.




This bull hangs out on Main Street in Durham.



Here are some closeups of the bees.

So far, being apart doesn't really feel any different than when he lived 45 minutes away. Weekends will probably be the hardest, but we're already planned out for the rest of the year with flights to NC and trips home to Pittsburgh. Next time I see him will be on Liz and Josh's wedding weekend, which is 23 days away. 23 days doesn't feel that long... yet.

Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ok I Just Have To Tell You About This Watch

**This is not an advertisement. I have no affiliation with Withings or anyone important, for that matter.**

About a week ago I came across this baby on the internet. I don't remember when or where or how, but it was love at first sight. In all my years of searching I've never come across a fitness watch this attractive, period. Plus it's loaded with functionality, plus it's waterproof, plus it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE CHARGED.


Did you get that? No charging. I'm smitten. By the way, it's called the Activite Pop and it's by Withings.

Normally when I want to buy something over $100, especially in a market as saturated as fitness wearables, I'm going to do a lot of research to make sure it's the best there is. In this case, I didn't have to. 

Here's why:

Somewhere between one and two years ago I decided I wanted a fitness watch. I did a TON of research on all the options back then, and at the time what I was looking for was the most in-depth and accurate data. Data data data. Eventually I decided on the Basis watch. I think the Fitbit Force came in a close second, but it had been recalled. I didn't care about the recall, I ain't afraid of no skin rashes, but it had been pulled from the shelves of every store. I could not get my hands on one. I digress.


I wore the Basis watch for a week or so and was not impressed with it's look and need to be charged all the time, so I returned it to Best Buy. They have a great return policy, btw. The point of the story is even after a ton of research, I still ended up with something I wasn't happy with.

Then a few months ago I tried the Apple Watch. I wanted to tell you all about it in another post, but it was turning out to be a BORING POST, and I don't just publish anything, ya know?


These are all the photos I took of the Apple Watch when I was wearing it. On the left is the main screen and the two right photos are from Instagram. It was aiight.

So why is the Withings watch so special? WELL did I tell you that you don't have to charge it? It runs on a battery that lasts about 8 months - more if you don't use the silent vibrating alarm it offers. That was like the number one selling point for me because when I tried both the Basis and the Apple Watch, there was always a question of when to charge. Overnight maybe, but the sleep monitoring was a feature I was really into, so night time wasn't ideal. In both test drive scenarios I usually charged the watch while at work standing at my desk. Being physically attached to my workstation long enough to charge up was annoying. But you know what? Being conscious of the battery life of my wearable was really annoying in general.


I am also in love with the Withings watch because it just freaking looks good. Did you see how heinously ugly the first Basis watch was? The Apple Watch was beautiful, but the good-looking one, pictured above, was way out of my price range. Plus I wouldn't be able to bring myself to wear the handsome Apple Watch at the gym. I'd destroy it for sure. The Activite Pop watch is nice enough to be worn to a wedding (really, I wore it to a wedding on Friday) but casual enough to be worn at the gym (did that too). Don't ask me how they managed that. I think it has to do a lot with the coloring. The creme, almost dusty-rose-like color is just so chique, but the watch has a simple face and the band is rubber, so voila, there's your casual element. You can also change the bands to purple, blue or orange. I chose to wear a color band daily to keep the creme one looking fresh for nice occasions. The accessories pack cost me about $30.

Lastly, the watch is waterproof. This makes for a TRUE set-it-and-forget-it type of data collection. You buy the watch. You put it on. You sleep in it. You shower with it on. And it's up to you whether you check the accompanying app daily, weekly, or hourly.

So how much did this watch cost me? It retails at $149.00 but I got it when it was on price match at Best buy for $129.00. I bought it with a gift card so if you consider the fuelperks you could argue I got it for $113.52.

I've been wearing the watch for about a week an a half so far, and I'm still super into it. Once I get some more data we can look at some trends! Riveting. I know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I've Read Seven Books In Seven Weeks

Happy Birthday to the Hobbyist! 
It's been one year since my first post, and I'd like to say 
"thanks for reading" with this photo of a card.
Get this cute greeting card from 9thletterpress.com <--not an AD


So, speaking of reading, I LOVE to read but I don't do it as often as I'd like, because books are so expensive on my Kindle.

"Why don't you borrow books from the library?" my girl Anna asked me one day. "They're free."

She had a point...

In college the campus library was my home. It was a magical place where I could hole-up all day and eat two whole meals (brunch and dinner), 6 hours apart while studying, and also taking breaks to play the sims for way too long. 

I'm out of college now (3 freaking years!!) and the closest library is further than I like. Somehow while lamenting about how expensive books are on Amazon.com, the conversation Anna and I were having turned, and I realized that I could PROBABLY borrow books from the library to read on my kindle. Omg, why hadn't I thought of that before? What a NOVEL idea. 

See what I did there?

So in early August I paid the $65 in late fees I had been putting off since 2013, got my library card renewed (free), and started borrowing books to read on my kindle. These days I don't even bother to put them on my kindle anymore, because there's this thing called OneDrive, and it's awesome. I read on OneDrive from the browser on my phone, or on a desktop computer on my lunch break. My Mom reads her borrowed library books in OneDrive on her iPad's browser. It's just easier to teach people because it's less steps to borrow and return ebooks. Plus OneDrive automatically saves your pages when you exit. How convenient for us lazies, amiright?

So really, anyone* can borrow books from the library, without actually stepping foot in the library if they have two things:
  • a library card (you do have to actually go into the library to get one, I believe)
  • internet access
I'll tell you how to borrow books at the bottom of this post after I brag about all the awesome books I've enjoyed, and what I'm planning to read next. I am definitely open to suggestions. What books do you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Books I've read since August:

 Death Masks: The Dresden Files Series, Book 5 - Jim Butcher
 Blood Rites: The Dresden Files Series, Book 6 - Jim Butcher
 Gathering Blue: The Giver Quartet, Book 2 - Lois Lowry
 Messenger: The Giver Quartet, Book 3 - Lois Lowry
 Bossypants - Tina Fey
 Landline - Rainbow Rowell
 Without You There Is No Us - Suki Kim

Books I started to read but stopped because I learned I don't like to read books after I've seen the movie or show:

 A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire Series, Book 1
 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The HGTTG Series, Book 1

Books that are in my library waiting for me to read them:

 Yes, Please - Amy Poehler (I have 15 days to read this)
 Son: The Giver Quartet, Book 4 - Lois Lowry (19 days to read)
 Salt Sugar Fat - Michael Moss (20 days to read)
 Orange is the New Black - Piper Kerman 
                    (20 days, but maybe I won't want to read it since I've seen the show)

These are all the holds I'm waiting on to become available so I can borrow them:

 Dead Beat: The Dresden Files Series, Book 7 - Jim Butcher (I'm next in line for this one)
 Attachments - Rainbow Rowell (1 person ahead of me)
 Why Not Me? - Mindy Kaling (118 people ahead of me bc Mindy is incredible)
 Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson (5 people ahead of us, Jimmy)
 Hungry - H. A. Swain (4 people ahead of me)
 Carry On - Rainbow Rowell (38 people ahead of me - I'm not sure if this book is out yet)
 Fan Girl - Rainbow Rowell (3 people ahead of me)


So this is how to borrow a library ebook:
  • find a library that offers ebooksOneDrive's library finder is a really good place to start. Remember, OneDrive is how you can borrow library books without owning a Kindle, a Nook, a tablet, or a smartphone, but you can still use it even if you do. It's more inclusive though. If you do have one of those devices and want to read on it, you can still use OneDrive's website to find libraries that offer ebooks. Do it.
  • obtain a library card at a library that offers ebooks - go into the library and ask for a library card. You will likely need a driver's license or some other proof that you live in the area that the library services.  While you're there it might be a good idea to confirm that library's ebook lending process because they can vary. I am currently borrowing books from the Allegheny County Library Association in Pennsylvania. They service all of Allegheny County. There are many libraries in the network, but they share to offer a larger volume of books to everyone. I'll bet most libraries are like this. Click here if you want to read about how the libraries in Allegheny County are related and how they work together. It's actually kind of interesting.
***If libraries in your area don't offer ebooks, a neighboring county or library network that offers ebooks may allow you to obtain a non-resident library card for an annual fee. It might be worth the drive. My library card is good for three years. Don't give up!***
  • log on to your library's ebook borrowing websiteI borrow my ebooks from pittsburgh.libraryreserve.com, but some libraries might have their ebook borrowing portal right on their main site. After you've searched, found a book that wasn't already checked out, and borrowed that book, you can click the button that says "read" and this button will likely take you to OneDrive, or a comparable service that I'm not aware of.
  • You can stop at the last step, but if you want to put the ebooks on your kindle - choose the "download as kindle book" or similar choice on your library's ebook site. This will take you to amazon.com where you will be promted to log in. Next click "get library book" and choose the device you want to send the book to (one of your many, luxurious kindles, or the kindle apps on your twelve smart devices). From here you will now manage books downloaded on amazon.com under "your account", "manage your content and devices" in the top right menu. I love my kindle but this option kind of sucks because now you have to manage your amazon content and the library's web site too. It's really not that hard. If I was going to be traveling I would absolutely put in the extra step to add the books to my kindle, but on a daily basis I just use OneDrive.

Too Long Didn't Read: find a library that offers ebooks using this site and use their web site or call them to find out how to borrow ebooks


Thanks again for reading the blog this year. Keep it up. And don't forget to recommend books you've enjoyed in the comments!!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cassia's Peanut Dressing - WITH Measurements

In August I told you if I ever made Cassia's peanut dressing again that I'd write down the ingredient quantities. If you're more on the adventurous side, or already know how you like your peanut dressing, a list of ingredients without quantities might be useful for you. If you're like me, you prefer a list of suggested quantities and are open to adjusting after you taste what the author of the recipe intended.

So here it is, the exact recipe for Cassia's Peanut Dressing, so you can, once and for all, taste the dressing that I love SO MUCH.


Cassia's Peanut Dressing

  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 4 T EVOO
  • 4 T honey
  • 4 T rice vinegar
  • 3 T sesame oil
  • 3 T ground fresh ginger
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T minced/chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 T siracha
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
Combine in a bowl and mix with a wire whisk. Add water if you want to thin it out. Best part about these quantities? When combined, they fit perfectly in a standard, 16 oz mason jar. VoilĂ .


Peanut Dressing makes kale taste less-bad.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

I Love Me Some Fuel Perks

You might not know this about me, but I am very frugal. I am so frugal, in fact, that one time I paid for every meal out on a trip to naples with multiple bags of change I exchanged at the bank. More recently, I left my entire computer/study setup at Panera in Wexford so I could run across the street to Market District and buy a Panera gift card before buying anything to eat at Panera. If you don't believe me, check my twitter. 

I love to save money and work a
savings program. You could call it a hobby; a type A person's hobby. Let's just say, I get where extreme couponers are coming from. One way I do this is by buying gift cards at the grocery store for things I'd already buy; like restaurant gift cards for date night with Rob, a Dicks Sporting Goods gift card for a foam roller I recently got, or a Best Buy gift card for my super cool, new fitness watch that I will definitely be telling you about later.

So how am I saving money by buying gift cards? A: Fuel Perks. Basically you do your grocery shopping at Giant Eagle/Market District, and for every $50 you spend you get $0.10 off per gallon of gas on your next fill up. The maximum amount of gas you can purchase at the discounted price is 30 gallons. So for every $50 you spend at the grocery store, you get back a guaranteed $3. That's 6% back. That's more than the best grocery cashback credit card on the market (considering there's no annual fee for fuel perks). And that's not even including the occasional promotions where you can get more off on gas than the minimum $0.10.

I know it all probably sounds like a lot of juggling. That's because it is. I actually really enjoy working out the best ways to save the most money, and when it stops being fun, I will stop concerning myself with it.

Now here are three considerations:

1) Market District's prices are higher than other grocery stores. (If you're going for the lowest grocery prices, Aldi is the place to be.) I have accepted this. I buy for one and regularly shop sales to keep grocery prices low.

2) In the last 5 months I've spent an average of $120 a month on groceries, which won't get you a lot in the way of fuelperks. This is where the gift card spending comes in!

3) I drive a Prius with a 9 gallon gas tank, so I will never use 30 gallons at a time. This is why I made the decision to invest in gas cans.

My Beautiful Fleet
I was hesitant to purchase gas cans at first because they can be surprisingly pricey. I started thinking about buying gas cans for a few months before I actually did because of their cost. Eventually I found 6 gallon cans for $13.95 apiece plus shipping. Trust me. This is a great price.

Hypothetical Savings
Then I wanted to know approximately how long it would take me to make up for the cost of the gas cans with my savings. As you can see above in my hypothetical table, it would take me a little over two fill ups before I actually saved money on gas. Then once the cost of the cans is covered, the savings really starts to add up.

A few other considerations:

1) The weight of 1 gallon of gas is approximately 6 lbs. This means that one can can hold up to 36 lbs. When combined with the weight of one can (3.1 lbs) this is a potential weight of 39 lbs per can. I can definitely lift one up into my car, and I can carry two at a time with my arms at my sides. Thanks CrossFit.

2) 5 gallon cans would have been cutting it close. That's why I was sooo happy that the 6 gallon cans I found were cheaper than any 5 gallon ones I saw. Also, this way I don't have to wait until my car is all the way on "E" to go for a fill up.

3) I used data from my budgeting history to figure out approximately how often I was filling up my tank. 30 gallons is a little over three full fillups for my car so I took my average time between fillups (13.8 days) and multiplied by 3 to figure out how long each fill up would last (approximately 6 weeks).

4) Fuelperks expire 2-3 months after they're earned so considering I will need to fill up approximately every 5-6 weeks, I shouldn't need to worry about them expiring before I can use them.

Actual Savings
It's been 6 weeks since I started using my gas cans at GetGo. This is the same table updated with data from my GetGo visits on July 31st and September 9th. I'm actually saving at a better rate than originally predicted. So far I am $2.75 away from covering the cost of the cans. I also used gas at a faster rate this week because Rob and I had a lot going on in his neck of the woods and I also started going to CrossFit at a gym that is a little out of the way.


On the left is the pump from my July 31st fill up and on the right is my fill up from this Saturday. I made one mistake and hung up the pump before I was done, so I lost .5 gallons of cheap gas. I will get over it one day.

So that's fuelperks. I am not affiliated with Giant Eagle, Market District, or GetGo in any way. I am not receiving any type of compensation for writing this post. I just love to save money!