JTJ

Welcome back to Growing Up Golden self and hello readers!  Yea, I disappeared, I know.  But hey, I’m back!  Whilst on my very extended hiatus, it occurred to both my bestiekins and I that I am neglecting my readers of some valuable knowledge I possess and it would be a crime to keep it from you.   So, without further ado, I present to you “Jen the Jew.”   What?!?!   How dare I use that word in jest?  But I do because it is just so perfect.  And well, we all know I love a good stereotype when I see one.  So it stays.   It’s origination comes from countless conversations with friends about deals I’ve found that are…to put it bluntly, cheap.  Don’t be confused though, cheap does not mean you can’t keep it classy kids.  I have a special talent for finding the most le fance food and fun for almost free.  So there you have it, cheap deals plus a Jewish girl named Jen equals “Jen the Jew.”  Voila!   JTJ segments will detail my latest and greatest finds throughout LA and the country, so stay tuned and find out how to be le fance on a budget.  Now, let’s all take our white wigs off and be honest…we’ve got a little Jew in us!

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Budget Beach Day

imageIt’s no surprise I would try and fance up a beach day to the best of my ability.  When you have limited funds for vacations, your best bet – and mine, is to plan staycations.  This past Saturday was the first of many to come.

I set my sights on Paradise Cove in Malibu and grabbed two friends to come along.  With our pitcher of low carb margaritas (tequila, club soda, splenda, and lime juice) and cooler in tow, we set off toward our destination.

First stop – Malibu Country Mart for some food to bring with us to the beach.  I remembered my LA-born cousin taking me to an awesome sandwich shop a few years back when I first moved here called John’s Garden.  Yum.  It’s a tiny place in the center of all of the snazzy shops, movie theater, and restaurants and it’s always got a line out the door.  We happened to beat the crowd and each ordered a deliciously large ‘wich for the road.  We, being the sensible yet curious shoppers that we are, coincidentally stumbled into Kitson, Crumbs Bake Shop, J. Crew, and Chocolatebox Cafe while looking for the restroom.  Finally after prying ourselves away from the stores, we departed for the beach.

imageStop numero dos – Paradise Cove off the Pacific Coast Highway.  After finding free street parking and paying a mere $5  entry fee, we carted our stuff down toward the beach.  To our left, the nifty Beach Shuttle that brings the beach bums back to their cars atop the hill and…a food truck!  But not just any food truck, the Leblon Caipirinha truck!   At this point, we knew we chose the right beach to spend the day at, and not just because of my affinity for food trucks.   Paradise Cove happens to be one of the only beaches in the Santa Monica to Malibu spread with a cafe and bar on the actual sand.  Being a native Miami-an, the lack of restaurant-water locations in LA has always upset me.  Restaurants on a cliff overlooking the water comes close, imagebut just doesn’t cut it.  Even though we were food and beverage sufficient, I was happy just knowing it was there – in case.  Finally, we reached the sand and set up shop.  Talk about a view…and relaxing.  So relaxing, one of my gal pals passed out while the other and I flipped through LA Magazine’s “Best of LA” issue and planned our post-beach move, a pit stop at Malibu Yogurt and the neighboring coffee shop.

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From there we made the long trek back to West Hollywood, and keeping with the beachy theme, stopped at Mexico Restaurante y Barra’s happy hour.  A few casa margaritas and a shrimp ceviche later we had accomplished our goal to feel like we were on a vacation and spend little money doing so.

Having had a full day of festivities there was nothing left to do but take a much-needed nap.  However, our day was far from over.   We regrouped and headed to the launch of the new Xomad private events sponsored by Blackberry.  Being that I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, how could I turn down the yummy catered food, cupcakes, and open bar?  Yea, I don’t think so.

Now, with all that being said and done, the grand total of our fun-filled day in LA came to a whopping…drum roll anyone? $32 per person.

How you ask?  Here is a breakdown of our costs:

Home-made margarita mix $25, sandwiches $30, beach entry $15, coffee and yogurt $9, happy hour $18, Xomad event and parking FREE.

Talk about stretching a dollar!  Hey, if you can’t afford it, improvise.

Check back soon for another awesomely fancy-cheap day in LA.  Suggestions are always welcomed!

An American in Israel

To the left, we have the human map of Israel.  Moi.  Day one of my trip and I was already volunteering and up to my usual antics.  However that was the only thing that remained usual in those 10 days I spent across the globe.

Whether it was because I had done little research on the country’s aesthetics due to my lack of interest in visiting or my love of stereotypes, I had absolutely no idea I would find myself in such a wonderful and heavenly place.  I also had no idea that when people warned me about the intense heat during the summer there that it would be an understatement.  I mean wow.  Holy hotness.   As silly as it sounds, I was expecting more of an Amish way of life rather than the modern country that I fell in love with.  It wasn’t all sunshine and roses right away though. Because of the overly cautious person that I am, I was alarmed every time I heard a sound or saw a lone bag that I immediately decided was a bomb.  Again, silly.  Especially in a place that’s even more cautious than I am and with good reason.  Due to everything that has happened in that teeny, New Jersey-sized sliver of a state, they have visibly armed guards with tour groups, and security at most public areas.  Of course you can’t prevent everything, but you can sure as hell try.  And they are.  This, however takes some time getting used to and once you are, you come to realize you are actually safer there than you are running around in the US where threats are less assuming.   This wasn’t always the case in Israel, but after several history lessons, group discussions and the bazillion questions I asked our guides and Israeli peers that were traveling with us, I began to relax and not freak out as much when I heard something or saw someone that I deemed suspicious.DSC03829 Who knows, maybe I looked suspicious to them!  I’m sure I whipped up a few unreconizable facial expressions every now and then.

All safety issues aside, the overall feeling in Israel is that of the utmost spirituality.  I get it.  It is the holiest place on Earth and draws you in like a magnet.  The air is crisp, sky is blue, palm trees green, the buildings beige and almost sparkle.   You can’t avoid being moved and overcome with thoughts and feelings and perspective when you’re there.   The structures and architecture, history, and passion that seep from every corner and conversation could easily bring a normally reserved and un-phased person to tears.

This brings us to propaganda.  Nothing upsets me more than people, Jewish like myself, saying that the Birthright trip is a bunch of Israeli propaganda and brain-washing.  Propaganda shmopaganda.  Um, if about 50,000 foreigners were flown to the US every few months to learn and see what all the hoopla was about, wouldn’t we proudly tell them what they came to hear?  Do we not as people instantly defend or promote what we are and know?  And in most cases, aren’t we all a bit of a patriot when talking about where we are from?   I can’t imagine why any young Jewish person wouldn’t take the opportunity to go to Israel for free if they had the chance.  Why turn down the chance of a lifetime?  Literally.  I never thought of paying for myself to go there over let’s say, Italy, but now having been, I’d vacation there or go to bring me back down to Earth when life takes over.  I’ve never felt so much and reflected as much as I did when I was laying under the stars in the Negev Desert.  I don’t even know the last time I saw, or if I’ve ever seen a shooting star in LA or stopped to look for them.  Now that’s just sad.

Hopefully I will keep my promise to myself and remember and incorporate everything I experienced in Israel so that it becomes second nature.  If nothing else, that I am just a tiny speck in the larger scheme and at the end of the day very few of the things we worry most about are actually important.

Operation Summer Vacation

I, like many people, can not imagine summer, my favorite season, without a summer vacation.  I don’t think I’ve gone one summer without going at least somewhere, even if that somewhere was nearby.  Of course finances come into play and without necessary means, vacationary options are limited.

In all my years on this planet I have never considered going to Israel, even though it is my "homeland" and as a Jewish person, I have the opportunity to go for free-ish (courtesy of Taglit Birthright).  Europe, Australia, Mexico, Thailand…I wanted to go anywhere but Israel.  It is unclear why it never crossed my mind, however it dawned on me when considering travel plans for this summer, and the lack thereof.  Why not have someone else pay for my vacation and go to Israel?  Genius.   Aside from the trip only costing me a few sheckels, I figured what better way to continue my spiritual and personal growth and really solidify my connection to the religion I was born into and now gladly claim.

So began the application process.  No, I do not automatically get to go just because I am Jewish.  There are several things to fill out online, followed by a phone interview and then the verdict.  You’re either selected, wait-listed, or rejected – I mean encouraged to try again next time, of course.  There’s also that age bracket of 18-26 years old that you must fall between.  I happened to get selected for my trip.  It may have been due to my age or a series of emails letting them know I was already packed and needed to know my flight details.   Pushy, almost Israeli-like.  Hey, when in Rome…

And then off I went – by way of July 4th weekend in NYC with a brief stint in the Jersey Shore.  Point Pleasant people, not Seaside, and yes I did fist pump.  Even in Israel.  Israel127airport

Warning: Animal has escaped from the zoo and is disguised…

…as a MAN.

Here’s some background. My friend basically swore off dating for 2010, but went out with this guy one night to get it over with since he had asked her to hang out a few times before that. She had no expectations and really wasn’t in the mood to go have drinks with this stranger at the Belmont on a Sunday night. It turned out that they hit it off and spent five hours talking about everything and anything. He had qualities she hadn’t found yet in other guys, he was assertive, direct, a great listener, and very manly – a real guys guy. She was very intrigued by his time spent in the Israeli army and the fact that he wrote a book about his experience there. An intellectual tough guy, she thought. Perfect. He seemed very into her and made all kinds of future plans to see her.  At the end of that week he would be leaving town for over a month and wanted to see her as much as possible before that.  She was taken back by his eagerness to see her since they’d just started hanging out but liked it. No games, finally.

A few days before he left, he became distant, less talkative, and canceled plans, if you can even call what he did a cancellation.  She was disappointed but not upset because by that point, he had hardly made a dent on her life.  Then, lo and behold, once he got situated on location in Europe, he resurfaced with his excuse being that he was extremely busy before leaving town and needed to take care of everything. Fine, that’s understandable, she decided.  I mean he hardly knew her.  She definitely wasn’t a priority yet. It made sense and she forgave him. They continued talking via text, calls, skype and email. He constantly kept in contact. She figured it couldn’t hurt and would at least be entertained.   However, quickly it went from careless entertainment to real feelings and real feelings turned into missing him.  How could that even be possible after knowing him for such a short amount of time?  It was illogical and unrealistic.  They spoke all of the time, revealed things about themselves in “morning messages” they’d send each other letting the other know how they felt and concerns and questions, and grew closer by the day.  He even initiated talks of her flying out to see him in Europe (on his dime) and brought up what it would be like together when he returned to LA.  He wanted to integrate himself into her life, have her cancel all of her plans for the month of April and spend it with him once he got back. He wanted her to leave a toothbrush and pajamas at his place and be comfortable there with him. Aside for a few small things, and the major disappearing act he pulled in the beginning, he seemed like a good guy. A little pushy and quick to dive into a relationship, but great otherwise. She was definitely excited by his enthusiasm, yet still reluctant because it was all stemming from the two times they hung out before he left. She wasn’t sure she wanted to rule out seeing other people for this person she hardly knew, but hey, she didn’t want to date in 2010 anyway so what was the difference at this point?

Sooner than she expected, they had a series of fights and make ups where each time she wanted to call it quits because hello, it was just absurd to be dealing with this much trouble in the short period of time they knew each other.  He felt the opposite – that the problems were due to the distance and that once in the same place, they would be completely fine.  Again, he pursued, convinced, and on they went.  By this point, she was one foot in, one foot out.  She didn’t allow herself to get completely involved emotionally because things had been so inconsistent and so she kept herself at a distance.  She definitely didn’t see a future with this guy because of their personality differences. He had a temper, would drop off when stressed out with work, and had a mouth on him – most likely due to his time spent in the army.

Then for a while, it seemed like smooth sailing. No fights, just great talks, supporting each other, and becoming close again. Time was passing and soon he would be returning to LA. They’d finally get a chance to really see how things would be together. She was actually really excited to pick him up at the airport on March 27 and decided she would give it a shot. Lo and freaking behold, about two weeks ago he dropped off again, growing distant and less talkative. She knew something was up and in her likely fashion, she wanted to check out emotionally. Not the best defense mechanism, but one nonetheless. Only this time she couldn’t. He had worn her down, after all of the red flags and hesitance, and she let him in. The only difference was that now he had really dropped off. It came right after they had gotten their closest too. She couldn’t get in touch with him and finally gave up. Until yesterday. She couldn’t take it anymore and wanted answers. How could he suck her in like this and then completely go MIA? He was the one driving it the entire time and now silence. So she called him. She wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer and left a message. But she couldn’t leave it at that. She called the hotel he was staying at and was connected to his room and finally got through. Only the person answering the phone was not him, it was a female and then he got on the phone and pretended he couldn’t hear her on the other end of the line. Now she had an answer. He was seeing someone else. Who knows if it was just that one, or maybe others he was seeing too. For all she knew, he could have been married this entire time. Of course this led to a series of other questions like why, how, when, and who. It also led to anger and disappointment and utter shock. How could he treat her like that after everything they’d planned for and told each other and supposedly felt? What kind of emotionless animal was he really? How can people treat other people like that at all? People pretend to be someone they aren’t, and basically disguise themselves as the person they know you want them to be. The truth always comes out though and someone is always left with the rug pulled from underneath them.

Moral of the story: Take things slowly, get to know the person, and push the brakes when you see red flags early on. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a fraud like she did, hurt, confused and afraid to trust again.  Also, it’s much more respectable and eventually forgivable if you own up to whatever you’ve done to hurt someone else.   Acknowledging it and coming clean may be uncomfortable for you, but it goes a long way and definitely will make a difference in the long run to that person on the receiving end.  Promise.

The Sundance Shore

Now that I have fully recovered from my adventures at the Sundance Shore (clearly we were all very into the Jersey Shore and it made its way into many things following the finale), amongst other things I encountered when I returned back to LA, here is the complete rundown.  After surviving my flight to Salt Lake City that got struck by lightening mid-flight, I knew things could only go up from there.  Upon arrival, my girlfriends and I took a car into Park City and headed to the house that would become home for the duration of our stay, and let me tell you what an incredible house it was!  We met our roommates and soon after the festivities began.

I definitely tried not to spread myself too thin this year and plan my Sundance schedule reasonably.  I kicked off the weekend at the Gen Art 7 Fresh Faces in Film party co-hosted by 7 For All Mankind and hosted by actress Malin Akerman (“The Watchmen,” and “Couple’s Retreat”).  The 7 of the Fresh Faces being honored were Shawn Ashmore (“Frozen”), Amy Ferguson (“Douchebag”), Shiloh Fernandez (“Skateland”), Zoe Lister-Jones (“Armless”), Zoe Kazan, (“happythankyoumoreplease”), Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”) & Kevin Zegers (“Frozen”).  After the Gen Art party I called it an early night to save my energy for the long days to come.  The change in altitude really does a number on you.

Saturday morning I got up bright and early to begin my day.  Sundance is not exactly a relaxing vacation, but more a weekend to cram in as much fun as possible.  Off I went to the Village at the Yard, one of the most popular gifting areas which also houses the T-Mobile Diner.  One of the best things about Sundance is that all of the festival food and beverages are free so I made sure to eat my meals there during the day.   The food was great and to order your drinks you either text or called the Beverage Station on one of the new T-Mobile myTouch phones at the center of your table.  The only negative about the diner was the hostesses.  Apparently customer service was not one of their concerns unless you happened to be a celebrity.  Speaking of celebrities, I definitely spotted a few while running around one of my favorite gifting suites there, Fred Segal Fun.  I stood face-to-face with Kareem Abdul Jabar, well more like face-to-knee that guy is so tall.  I also saw funny guy Jonah Hill, football player T.O. and a few of the Glee actors.  The Fred Segal Fun suite is always a big hit because it introduces many of the new lines that Fred Segal carries including George Gina and Lucy, Emu, Kr3w, and probably the coolest thing I saw during Sundance, The Poken.  Once we finished our drinks at the Village’s Philadelphia Industry Lounge, we made our way to the next gifting area at Talent Resource’s Sky Suite.  There we scooped up things from Axe, AMC Movie Theaters, UrbanEars headphones, Rebecca Jewelry and Jenny B Clothing.  My favorite things were definitely the awesome green long sleeve burnout animal print tee and “I just might snap today” message tee from Jenny B and the gift certificate to Rebecca because half of the proceeds from my certificate went to charity courtesy of Giiv.com.  I was very happy to see that Sundance was not all about taking this year but giving back, especially to the Haiti Relief Fund.

After a full day of seeing what was hot and flying off the shelves at this year’s suites, I parked myself on a couch at the Tao cocktail party and shoveled sushi into my mouth.  From there we headed home to regroup, change and devise a plan for the evening.  We started the night at Gen Art’s big Kenneth Cole Vintage Black party hosted by Kenneth himself and honored 4 champions of independent film: Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis, Diego Luna, and Michael Shannon.  Next stop was the Axe party at the Sky Lodge where we met up with Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, and saw celebs like Simon Rex, Shane West, Adrian Brody, and Mario Lopez.  Then we headed home to our roommates for some bonding time and finally hit the hay.  Sunday would be another long day.

Up again bright and early for our last gifting suite, the Kari Feinstein Style Lounge.  This suite just might have been my absolute favorite because they offered so many different types of products, new and old.  I scooped up a great pink hoodie from the folks at Superdry, Fake Bake tanning lotion, Usana vitamins, stationary from Linda and Harriett, a vintage Miami Dolphins tee, a yoga mat, and more.  I walked out of there with bags upon bags of awesome items.  Once the gifting was all said and done, I caught the last bit of the Gen Art and K-Swiss Ping Pong Classic where cast members and filmmakers from four festival films including “Douchebag”, “Lovers of Hate,” “Obselidia” and “Skateland” battled it out on the ping pong court.  After a short nap back at the house, I stopped by the “High School” premiere party at the House of Hype and watched the Michael Chiklis Band perform.  I didn’t even know he had a band, but hey, they were pretty good.  Then it was back to Tao where I talked with one of my favorites, John Legend, and hung with my friends who produced the film “Teenage Paparazzo.”  Another great thing about Sundance, everyone is essentially on the same level and attends the same parties, no matter how famous or VIP you are.  From Tao, we went to the Flaunt party and then to bed.  Another endless and amazing day at Sundance.

Finally, it was Movie Monday and time to get down to business.  I started the day off well with the witty film “Douchebag.”  I enjoyed it and thought it was interesting and had many funny moments, especially because the lead, Andrew Dickler, really portrayed the quintessential douchebag.  Next I saw “Skateland” and to continue with honesty, I was not impressed.  Not by the actors Shiloh Fernandez and Ashley Greene, not by the directing, and not by the script.  Harsh, I know.  It just felt cliche, forced, meh.  The remaining two films I saw were horror films and by no means my kinds of movies.  The first was a dutch short film whose name escapes me, but watching it was literally like nails on a chalkboard.  I’m pretty sure in the actual film, one of the scary, disformed children was dragging her nails down a real board.  Painful.  The second was the feature film, “The Violent Kind,” which I went to see in support of my friend who produced it, and another friend who acted in it.  For me to judge it would be unfair considering I generally hate horror and torture porn and that’s what this was.  However, if that is your cup of tea, you should check it out.

Being that this was the final night in Park City with my roommates and now close friends, we all went out for “family dinner” to be together one last time as a group and say our goodbyes.  It was very “Jersey Shore”-esqe and fantastic.  All in all, I’d have to say Sundance 2010 was amazing and I can’t wait to go again next year.

Sundance, here I come!

If you are missing the festival this year, fear not!  I will be covering all of the events from the inside.  Even though the weather is supposed to be ridiculously low compared to prior years, I will bundle up and head out to bring you all of the scoop on the parties, gifting suites, celebrity sightings and of course the main reason we flock to Park City this time every year, the films.

Last year I saw some really awesome stuff: (500) Days of Summer, Mary and Max, and An Education. This year I am really looking forward to seeing Holy Rollers, Teenage Paparazzo, Hesher, High School and The Runaways. The great thing about Sundance is you never know who you might be sitting next to in the audience, could very well be one of the stars in the film or the director!

In addition to seeing films, I will be running in and out of the famous Sundance gifting suites.  So that I don’t feel guilty after indulging in all of the yummy food in the lounges and hot chocolate at the Lift, I will need to get my workout in at the Nintendo Lounge.  Then I’ll be off to the Village at the Yard to see what this year’s gifting suites have to offer.  Last year they were pretty damn amazing, but I’m thinking this year just may top it.  Fred Segal Fun was definitely my fav and I can’t wait to go back there and see what’s hot amongst celebs and Sundance goers this time around.  I’m really looking forward to the Sephora suite and checking out their new products and looks for the season.  New this year are the Oakley House and Gen Art lounge.  No matter what time of day, these places will be packed with celebs, people in the industry and Sundancers drinking, eating, gifting and having a great time.  Not a shabby way to spend a few days.

Once the sun goes down, I’ll make my way over to one of Park City’s famous restaurants and out for a long night of films and parties.  I don’t know how I’ll be able to fit in the Gen Art parties, Twitter House, Tao, and Harry O’s for live performances but I am up for the challenge.

Check back next week for all the scoop.  Off I go!