Why I love Yelp

Being new in town, there are certain services for which I need referrals. You know, like where to get my hair cut. Since I don’t know many people, these recommendations are hard to come by and I’m not going to stop random strangers on the street, “I love your hair! Who do you go to for a cut?” Nine times out of ten they will freak out and likely not be able to tell me or just straight out lie.

So, I turn to Yelp for help. Sorry for the rhyme. Anyway, when I first moved to Sacramento, I had a hard time finding a good stylist. I went to the gal my mom and sister used. She was fine, but something was missing. When Yelp finally became a thing, I looked for and found a great hairdresser. I went to her for a good six years. Also, I found some doctors through Yelp. It’s not just for restaurants!

Now, to navigate Yelp, you have to look between the lines of a review. Just because a few people gave a place a bad review doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Has the reviewer written more than 5 posts? Do they have any friends on Yelp? Are the majority of their posts negative? However, also be wary of a place that only has a few reviews that are all positive. Apply the same rule of thumb and look at the reviewers.

Personally, I like to use Yelp not only to warn people of bad service, but mostly to promote businesses that I have enjoyed. I actually have received a thank you for a positive review from a business owner. Needless to say, this makes me want to use their services even more and tell my friends about it.

Granted, I’m not sure how popular Yelp is here in the Twin Cities. I have checked into a few places with two or three check ins and suddenly become Duchess (sort of like the Mayor in Foursquare). This tells me not too many people are using that aspect of Yelp and might not be “yelping” much altogether. I wonder how long it will be before I become Queen?

Wine Online

tastings, wineIt’s no secret that I love wine. Now that I’m living in Minnesota, I realize that I took California and it’s awesome wine for granted. It was easily available everywhere.  OK, not everywhere, but it was more accessible. I just had to drive down to the grocery store to grab a cheap bottle for the night or I could take 30 minutes to go to Lodi or Clarksville to visit some wineries.

Here in Minnesota, I think it’s easier to pull teeth than pick up a bottle of Pinot Grigio.

So, like all modern folks, I turned to the internet to easy my shopping burden.  I had heard about Invino from Klout. I saw it as a perk a year or so ago, but never did anything with it until now.

Because crowdsourcing is a great way to make a decision and blame someone else when it doesn’t work, I asked the Twitterverse if anyone had used the online wine service.  Interestingly enough, Invino responded and I got a $10 discount, which pretty much covered shipping.

Now, I do get overwhelmed by wine. I know what I like, but unless I’m at the winery tasting it, I have no idea what kinds I like. I know I’m not a huge zinfandel fan, but I do enjoy a good tempranillo. Beyond that…I just like red and white. No pink or sweet wine though.  Barf.

Twitter Conversation

As eloquent as that last thought was, I did find a smart solution to my indecision: Sampler Packs

I bought 6 different wines for $10.  They were an unoaked Chardonnay from Chamisal, a Tempranillo from Twisted Oak, a Zinfandel from Artezin, a Merlot from Bargetto, a Cabernet Sauvignon from La Storia by Trentadue, and a Petite Sirah from Clayhouse.

sampler packWhile I’m a huge fan of purchasing wine this way, there are a few things you should know:

  1. Your wine won’t ship until the sale ends.  So if you buy something today and the sale doesn’t end for a week, it won’t ship for two business days after that date.
  2. No tracking. While the site says they will send you an email when your wine is on its way, I never received said email, so I wasn’t home when the wine arrived. They suggest you ship to your office, but that’s a little bit of a problem for those of us who don’t have one.
  3. Those sampler bottles are damn tiny!  I have no idea how big or small things really are. I thought the sampler bottles would be like the individual bottles of wine found in the stores.  Uh. no.  If you look at the picture of the Chardonnay in the glass…that’s the entire bottle.

If you do happen to sign up, you will receive at least two emails a day from Invino letting you know about new sales.  Maybe it’s not that often, but it seems like it. It’s nice if you are really into wine, but if you aren’t you might get overwhelmed by them.

It’s a Grand Old Day in Saint Paul

Photo Credit: Brandon Stengel, courtesy of the Grand Avenue Business Association

Photo Credit: Brandon Stengel, courtesy of the Grand Avenue Business Association

Apparently, a quarter of a million people are about to descend on my area of Saint Paul.  Why? Because it’s festival time!

It’s the 40th anniversary of the Grand Old Day festival in Saint Paul. The Grand Avenue Business Association started this event in 1973 as a way to raise funds to promote businesses along Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.  They shut down most of  Grand Ave and the large amount of visitors expected means I’ll likely be trapped in my apartment, but as long as I can get out if there’s an emergency (which I’m sure I will) I doubt there will be a problem.  This event has been going on for quite a while. I would assume the organizers know what they are doing.  My evidence: the website is pretty spiffy.

So, what happens at this street fair held on the first Sunday of June? Well there’s a parade of course! This year’s theme is “Through the Decades” which is appropriate since the celebration has been around for four of them. So of course be on the look out for neon from the 80s and disco stuff from the 70s.

After the parade, they have various “districts” to wander through which are themed areas featuring various forms of entertainment.

The districts include Entertainment, Family Fun, Sporting and Home & Garden.  From what I’ve read the Home & Garden area is new this year and you can learn about edible landscaping, backyard chickens, and composting among other things.

What I’m really impressed with is the number of bands in the fair.  I appreciate any function that promotes local music or small time music artists…you know the ones who are still struggling to make it.

When I first heard that 250,000 people go to Grand Old Day, I was shocked. The logistics of it boggles my mind, but as I was surfing through the festival’s website, I can understand the big draw.  There’s quite a bit going on in one place and now that summer is here, Minnesotans seem to be eager for an excuse to get outside after a long, cold winter.

If the weather holds out, I might just have to take a walk down (or is it up?) there and see what everyone is looking at that is so interesting.  Then again, my crowd phobia might keep me at home following the fun on social media.  We’ll see.

This Friendship is Brought to You by the Letter I (for Internet)

Me & Katey at Krolls Diner

Me & Katey at Krolls Diner.

As most of you know, I met my boyfriend through Twitter. What you might not know is that most of the friends I’ve made over the last seven years have been due to the internet.

My blog was the first way I found people. I would comment on other blogs in an effort to drive traffic to mine, but as a byproduct, I actually met some people in real life. Katey is one of those people. I first met her in real life at BlogHer ’11. I went there completely alone, but met up with her and four other gals who had a group blog called The Peevery. They were just as awesome in real life as they had been on the internet.

Before our meeting in real life, we had only commented on blogs and then when Twitter became a thing, we tweeted at each other. Now, we mostly tweet and Facebook.

Over the weekend though, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Katey and her fiancé, Chris, while passing through North Dakota.

"Sit down und eat!"

“Sit down und eat!”

How insane is that? It’s really interesting how the universe works. One day I’m sitting on my couch in California, lonely and frustrated because I’d just been dumped. So, I signed up for BlogHer. Two years later, I’m sitting in a German themed diner in the Midwest with my boyfriend and Katey and Chris. Never would have I believed you if you’d told me that such an occurrence would happen. Mostly, I wouldn’t have believed that I would finally have an awesome boyfriend.

The internet is a powerful tool. My life would not be the same without it.

Get out of my mind!

video game, Facebook

Screen shot from iPhone

I’m not sure how it started, but I can’t stop playing Candy Crush Saga.  OK, obviously that’s not true because I’m not playing it right now.  But it has seeped into my subconscious.  I do know that it all began on Facebook.

Did you ever play Tetris as a kid? Then you had Tetris dreams like I did.  It’s not so much that I’m having Candy Crush Saga dreams…I have had them, but this game is odd. I’ll be doing something mundane (going to the bathroom) and suddenly an image of green, yellow and red candies appears in my mind.  Instantly, I look for a pattern and then realize I’m not playing that damn game.

What the hell is going on with me?  Is it some kind of sweet induced mind control? No, because I find myself hating those chocolate pieces that grow randomly.

I know it’s not just me.  Paul is having the same thing going on.  And that’s all my fault because I started playing that game first…he saw me and got hooked.

I’m trying like hell not to play that game.  There are tons of things to keep me busy, but I keep finding myself logging into Facebook and looking for those damn pieces of candy.

video games, Facebook

Screen shot from iPhone

Dreaming is always weird.  I don’t remember my dreams every night.  According to that article I linked from Scientific American, dreaming might be a reinforcement of a learned task.  It’s probably way more complicated than that.  Emotions certainly play a part in dreaming.  It also doesn’t explain why I suddenly have those images of candies pop up into my awareness at random while awake.

A “Pinteresting” Recipe

It’s a well known fact that I don’t like to cook.  Well, mostly, I’m afraid of cooking.  I have this fear of time management.  When do I start the side dish?  How long will the meat take?  You get the drift.

So, now that I have someone for whom to cook, I’m attempting to expand my culinary horizons…albeit a bit slowly.

food, meals, dinner, chicken, pot pieTonight, I made a chicken pot pie.  Not EXACTLY from scratch, but close enough.  I used this recipe I found by Googling.  I tried looking for stuff on pinterest first, but I got overwhelmed by all the shiny distractions.  But, since I’m trying all things social media, I immediately pinned it when I found it.  It’s a good way to stay organized and believe me, I need all the organizational help I can get.

Honestly, this recipe was pretty easy.  I mean the ingredients were simple. I added a chopped up potato since Paul isn’t a big veggie fan.  Also, I doctored up the cream of chicken soup.  First, I got the less fat one.  Then, I added some garlic powder and basil.  I think it helped a bit.

I was a little skittish about the dough.  Being a perfectionist, I wanted the fluted crust to look as pretty as the stuff in the professional looking photo.  Heck, I’d even take two flutes looking right.  I just can’t seem to figure out how to do it.

Regardless, it was a tasty dinner.

I really wish there was a meal planning app.  You know something that I could plug in the stuff I want to make and it spits out exact instructions on what to make when.  That or I just need to take a freaking Home Ec class.

Random Thoughts on Tweetups

There is a universal rule of thumb at tweetups. No one tweets at them. Today I went to my first #STPTweetup. No, that’s not a Stone Temple Pilot Tweetup, but a SainT Paul tweetup. I love these types of gatherings. It’s a great way to make new friends. Like I said, you have a built in ice breaker…you all tweet.  I met the gal who runs the gathering, Colleen McGuire.  She was awesome! I felt very welcomed and comfortable.

This one was fairly small compared to the Sacramento tweetups. According to Colleen, this is likely because the weather was nice. Minnesotans like to take advantage of it and enjoy the outdoors when they can, so the tweetups in the spring/summer tend to be smaller than the ones in the winter/fall.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to snow & rain. I wonder if more people would have shown up if the tweetup was Wednesday instead of Tuesday. It’s sort of the opposite of California. When it happens to rain, people hide indoors. No one knows what to do when water falls from the sky.

An aspect of the Twin Cities that I am thoroughly enjoying is the inventiveness of various eating & drinking establishments. Tonight’s venue was the Chatterbox Pub. What did I love about this place? They had Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong! I remember playing that as a kid after church on Sundays. We would go to a drug store and they had one in the back. I was awful at it then and Paul playing Donkey KongI’m awful at it now. Paul was better at it than me, but I think standing too close to him might have been somewhat of a distraction.

Also available….ATARI! They had an old school Atrari 2600 available as well as an original Nintendo system. There were couches surrounding about three TVs in the middle of one of the rooms of the restaurant. So, you could sit there, have dinner, an adult beverage, and play Space Invaders or Super Mario Brothers. I can’t wait to go back and play with those games. Paul actually brought some of his old Nintendo games to play, but we were too busy conversing with tweeters in real life to be bothered with digital stimulation.

By the way, before our tweetup adventure, Paul took me to yet another Snoopy statue. This one is at Half Price Books in Saint Paul. Snoopy is lying on top of his doghouse which is painted all dark and stormy…which if you are unfamiliar, is what Snoopy would always start off with when he was attempting to write.

Peanuts, Twin Cities

Located at Half Price Books

I also appreciated the canine puns around the bottom of the doghouse. Edgar Allen Pooch? Bark Twain? Come on. That’s hilarious!