Archive for October, 2010

Just in Time for Halloween – CoupMe’s Top 15 Horror Movies!

October 30, 2010

Ah, the month of October. When the New England weather begins to change and get cool, reminding all of the impending winter. While most spend the month bundling up and preparing, I like to bust out my movie collection and immerse myself in horror movies. Many TV channels will do the same, offering marathons of scary movies on at all times of the day and night. This is the time when the younger generation, more in-tune and aware of recent remakes than their predecessors, are able to catch the originals, made well before DVDs and Blu-Ray discs ever existed. (Side note: My collection consists of many VHS tapes – yikes! Now that’s scary!)

In the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve, I wanted to share my list of the top 15 scariest movies ever made that might serve as inspiration for anyone looking for ones to watch. The CoupMe team also helped me with this list, adding their favorites as well.

So without further ado, here is my list of the Top 15 Scariest Movies Ever Made:

15.) Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Although this is a sequel, it is greatly superior to director George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which unfortunately, is now dated. With a limited budget, Romero expertly crafted this zombie film that makes its audience feel just as trapped as the main characters. Definitely check this one out before seeing the 2004 remake, if possible. This could possibly be the best zombie film ever made.

14.) Alien (1979)

Speaking of claustrophobia, what movie personifies this better than Ridley Scott’s Alien? Featuring uber-female-protagonist Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, Alien has it all – great aesthetics, great scares (you’ll be checking your own chest after certain scenes!) and a great antagonist. While the movie’s memorable tagline is “In space, no one can hear you scream,” your neighbors will definitely know it’s you when you’re watching this one.

13.) The Evil Dead (1981)

Perhaps now best known for being the first full-length feature from Sam Raimi (director of the Spiderman series), The Evil Dead was a horror movie unto itself upon release. While it deals with zombies, it really pushes the card as far as reincarnation goes. The main character, Ash, played by Bruce Campbell (now found on USA’s Burn Notice), is one this generation’s great cult characters. This one is not for the faint of heart.

12.) Ju-On (2000)

Better known in the U.S. as The Grudge, Ju-On originally appeared in Japan in 2000 and contains among the creepier scenes I’ve witnessed. The film definitely lures you in with an intriguing premise and seems innocent for the first act until the true hide-under-the-blanket, edge-of-your-seat scariness sets in. I’d rather not ruin too much here for those that successfully avoided The Grudge.

11.) The Brood (1979)

I had to include a film from sci-fi / horror aficionado and director David Cronenberg on here. With so many to choose from (Scanners, The Fly, Videodrome, Dead Ringers), I choose the one with the most originality (though all of the aforementioned are quite original). The Brood revolves around a man who desperately tries to uncover the mysteries of a local therapist as things begin to get creepy. He succeeds and finds something far more terror-inducing than he anticipated – a brood of mutant children, with stone cold, black eyes, intent on destroying anything in their wake. Yikes.

10.) Black Christmas (1974)

Unfortunately, this is another one that has a more recent, less-than-gratifying remake, which came out in 2006. This original, however, is ahead of its time. Know the old urban myth about the crazed killer’s calls coming from the line in the attic? This is first to feature this subplot prominently. Using the usually familial and comforting holiday of Christmas as the back drop, Black Christmas really attacks the security people feel that the holiday season inherently brings with it. While not the first slasher film, this film is creepy enough to think twice about going up to the attic all alone.

9.) Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

And another classic ruined by a less-than-perfect remake. What makes Nightmare so scary is its innovation. Take a franchise serial killer with a new weapon (a glove with knife fingers) and have him attack you where you’re most vulnerable – your dreams. What’s your reaction? Of course – just don’t sleep. Well, the kids in the film are just as wise, but unfortunately, they’re just as human as you. Eventually sleep wins out and you have to face your dreams, or in this case, your worst Nightmares. (A plus is that a young Johnny Depp makes his first movie appearance in the film! I won’t ruin how it ends for JDepp.)

8.) The Ring (1998)

One of the more innovative horror flicks to come out in the last couple decades. Listed as their favorite horror movie by Rachel and Mike here at CoupMe, The Ring brings an array of truly creepy images mixed with new age pop-out scares. I think what’s most unsettling about this film is that every character – intentional or not – looks creepy. If you’re up for it, check out the original Japanese version, Ringu, which has a more intricate explanation at the end.

7.) Jaws (1975)

Anytime a movie can make the majority of America – heck, even the world – second guess going in the water, that’s a scary movie! What makes Jaws so scary is its incredible simplicity. People go in the water all the time. Sharks live in the water. People know this and still go. So what’s so inconceivable about a great white shark just eating people instead of fattening seals? While the third act of the film is more adventure than horror, you still never feel quite comfortable and the infamous scene when Roy Scheider is chumming confirms this. Not only will you need a “bigger boat,” you’ll probably need a bigger bed to hide in after watching this by yourself.

6.) The Thing (1982)

Aliens? Shape-shifting monsters that can take the form of anything or anyone? Secluded snow base in Antarctica? These are all elements that make The Thing not only one of the best horror movie remakes ever, but just one of the scariest flicks ever. Director John Carpenter, of Halloween fame, brings his incredible sci-fi eye to this flick, using advanced techniques to showcase his monster and its abilities throughout the film. Each transformation the monster makes becomes more stomach churning than the previous one. Add the fact that none of the characters OR the audience members knows who is the monster and who isn’t makes this one a truly edge-of-your-seat Halloween flick.

5.) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The slasher film that might possibly have shaped an entire generation. Directed by Tobe Hooper and made for next to nothing, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a film many never forget. Set deep in the woods, a group of teens stumble upon a terror previously unimaginable. Brandishing a weapon unused in horror films before, the infamous Leatherface plays by no rules and only appears when you feel the most calm. This film captures the true essence of a horror film – few cheap scares combined with terror-inducing aesthetics. You might not always see Leatherface, but you’ll certainly hear that chainsaw ripping in the night. Notoriously based upon the true life story of Ed Gein, this film is purely frightening.

4.) The Shining (1980)

My personal favorite, this film is the perfect storm of creative minds, based upon the original novel from Stephen King and helmed by famed director Stanley Kubrick. With one of many career-defining performances from Jack Nicholson, this film excels in situational and psychological horror. You thought being trapped in mall with zombies was scary? Try being trapped in a hotel amidst a snowstorm with your psychotic husband and the hotel’s ghosts. “Here’s Johnny!”

3.) Psycho (1960)

The classic, defining work of Alfred Hitchcock, widely considered to be the king of suspense. Anthony Perkins stars as the infamous Norman Bates, caretaker of the equally infamous Bates Motel. Featuring one of the most memorable and unforgettable scenes, Psycho essential did to the shower what Jaws did to the water 15 years later. With eerie landscape and unnerving serenity surrounding the environment, Psycho, way ahead of its time, paved the way for the future slasher generation. Without this film, the likes of Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees might never exist. Be sure to keep your eyes open for the entire film, or else you’ll miss the controversial and terrifying finale!

2.) Halloween (1978)

The quintessential scary movie for All Hallow’s Eve. Sometimes the scariest movies can be the simplest ideas. Take a crazed killer and have him use the most cliched and obviously night to conduct his reign of terror. Wielding a butcher knife (nothing extravagant) and moving slowly, Michael Myers is now synonymous with Halloween, not just because that’s the title of the film, either. Sure, there are some cheap pop-out scares here and there, but the spray-painted William Shatner mask slowly appearing in a dark frame behind the unsuspecting character? That’s terror personified!

1.) The Exorcist (1973)

The quintessential horror movie, period. Featuring quite possibly the scariest antagonist ever conceived – that of 12-year-old Regan MacNeil, possessed by the Devil – The Exorcist succeeds in conveying true horror without any of the cheap conventions of today. No pop-out scares here, just pure terror personified by a 12-year-old girl and expressed through the characters witnessing her transformation. There’s a reason audience members were throwing up and leaving the theatres back in 1973. This is NOT one to watch alone.

Everyone has an opinion about which horror movies are scariest. Here at CoupMe, Jared’s favorite scary is M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, which scared and amazed audiences back in 1999. Avi loves the tongue-in-cheek revival of the slasher films in Wes Craven’s Scream, which took horror films back to the basic in 1996: masked killers and unsuspecting high school students. Matt, one of our resident horror movie buffs, suggested The Mothman Prophecies, David Lynch’s psychologically damaging Mulholland Drive and the more recent box-office success Paranormal Activity. Becky, staying true to her middle-school-aged self, still loves Hocus Pocus. And who could forget the controversial Blair Witch Project, which became the most successful independent movie of all time back in 1999, surpassing Halloween’s previous mark?

One thing’s for sure – with Halloween around the corner, you’ll be witness many scary films during the next several weeks. Let us know which films you find scariest! (And if you happen to scare yourself too severely, you can get great pain relief with today’s CoupMe deals, found here!)

~ Seth, CoupMe

The Customer is Always Right…right?

October 29, 2010

On the heels of some exceptionally bad bouts of customer service with large companies who will remain nameless, I thought it might be nice to focus on a few local businesses who are really doing it right. These establishments buy in to the mindset that you can most definitely “kill them with kindness,” and go that extra mile to insure their customers leave satisfied and eager to return.

I’ll start with might be my favorite restaurant in the Boston area: Inman Square’s own East Coast Grill. Famous for their packed Sunday brunch, super salty fresh raw bar, and of course the ever-so-spicy Hell Night, the ECG is also known for being a locally awesome restaurant with great service. I’ve experienced it first-hand; anytime there’s been an ordering or product quality snafu, the staff has been on it and offered us a complimentary plate to compensate. The manager is often milling around, and when he is, he drops by every table to check in. This restaurant is also a stellar local business because they host tons of themed events featuring everything from canned beer to pig roasts and they whet our palates daily with updates to their Facebook and twitter pages.

When I’m in Watertown and searching for ethnic groceries, I always make a pit stop at the Arax Market. This Armenian grocery store stocks tasty pita breads, olives, fresh produce, and these awesome sesame seed and honey candy bars at the register that I can’t escape. Placement is key. Every time I come in, I purchase a decent amount of product, and if they are out of something, they’re great at recommending substitutes and giving me a head’s up on when more might be in. Clearly family owned and operated, Arax is always buzzing and sending happy, less hungry customers out their doors.

Let’s pop back to Cambridge on the Somerville line, home to the fabulously relaxing Inman Oasis. Massages have been all the rage, especially with daily deal websites like CoupMe finding the best deals around to give your bank a break. But you may not have ever thought before that it would feel super awesome to pair your massage with a soak in a hot tub– until now! This urban oasis (its former name, actually) features a community Japanese-style hot tub, which for $10, invites you to come in, take a cleansing shower, and soak for up to 30 minutes. Private tubs for parties of 2-4 may also be reserved, too. So, about their service. These ladies (and gents!) are calming by nature. They’re great about accommodating people to soak in the tubs, and never rush anyone. They also market their services on Facebook and on a chalk board out front, and offer worthwhile deals, like discounted soaker and massage packages.

These establishments especially hold a place in my consumer-minded heart; where else have you been lately where the service has knocked your socks off?

Cheers,

~Allison, CoupMe

CoupMe Goes 1-on-1 with the NBA season

October 28, 2010
CoupMe staff member Seth gives his input on this year’s NBA season…

Recently, CoupMe has been on a roll with our fitness deals. Every week, we’ve had a great local deal for personal fitness, whether it be personal training, group classes or fitness assessments. Today’s deal with Revolution Fitness in downtown Boston offers a unique and exclusive workout with the TRX Suspension Trainer device that allows participants to work on certain areas while leveraging their body weight. Purportedly, this workout was first used by Navy Seals (who knew?) and is currently used by many athletes, so I have to imagine it’s quite effective.

Speaking of athletes…

It’s incredible to think that basketball season is already upon us. I really didn’t even feel like it was time for hoops to return until well after the Celtics held on to beat the new-look, vilified Miami Heat on Tuesday. But regardless of how I feel about the season, it’s here. Thus, I wanted to offer some quick thoughts about the upcoming NBA season.

The Boston Celtics are deeper and hungrier than last year’s team.
It’s hard to think back to this past June when the C’s fell to the Lakers in the final two games of the season and gave away the chance at winning their second title in three years. However, that team was worn down, riddled with injuries and had absolutely no interior presence. So how did they answer? The team went out and stocked up on big men like Shaquille O’Neal aka the Big Shamrock and Jermaine O’Neal. They also drafted a talented center from overseas: Semih Erden. Oh, and the Celts spet the offseason conditioning themselves for the long haul, with the lingering thoughts of failure in their minds. This definitely drove them to be more than ready for this season, and by all accounts, they’re in the best shape collectively and individually since at least 2008. You have to like hearing Paul Pierce say that Glen “Big Baby” Davis is the most improved and in-shape he’s ever seen. Baby sure seemed to look the part in the opening night game too, playing with the starters down the stretch after contributing highly effectively minutes early on. This team is MUCH hungrier than they were last year and in 2009 to begin. They might even be hungrier than in 2008 and they looked like a team on a mission then. Yikes.
There’s no way it’s not Celtics – Lakers, Round 3 at the end of the season. The Celtics definitely have the tougher road back to the finals, with the Heat and Orlando Magic in their way in the Eastern Conference. The Heat will certainly be more cohesive when the Celtics eventually face them in the playoffs, but I still like the poise and moxie of the veteran squad to advance. The Magic do not intimidate me, especially since the Celtics took care of them last year, despite not having home court and lacking a consistent interior presence. Shaq and JerNeal will provide that. The Lakers, on the other hand, have next to nothing in their way back to the promised land. The Thunder, who gave them their toughest test other than the Celtics in last year’s playoffs – in the first round, nonetheless – will most likely be there in the Western Conference Finals. But again, the Laker’s ridiculous size will overcome anything the Thunder throw their way. And once the Celtics and Lakers reach the finals, the victor really comes down to whoever has the best season record and thus, homecourt. Home court proved incredibly fruitful for the Lakers last year and the Celtics won all three of their home games in the 2008 Finals. So while the Celtics might think they can take the regular season easy and then turn it on in the postseason, they better make sure they have homecourt secure against their bitter foes.

Enjoy basketball season, CoupMe visitors and Go Green!

~ Seth, CoupMe

It’s a Wrap: Get Creative With Your Lunch

October 27, 2010

Every day for lunch you have the same old thing: a tuna sandwich on white bread, leftovers (again), or something bland from the office cafeteria. B-O-R-I-N-G. C’mon, you can do better than that! If you’re running out of creative juices ’cause all you can think about is work, work, work, don’t worry! CoupMe is here help you jazz up your lunch with a week’s worth of tasty wraps! S0 long sandwiches (you are so old school) and hello delicious, flavorful, packed-to-the-max roll-ups. Enjoy…

The Mediterranean Wrap: This is the perfect refreshing wrap for any day, and it’s healthy too! Spread 2 TB hummus onto a whole grain wrap. Top with sliced tomatoes, red onion, spinach, and a touch of feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper. Serve with carrots ‘n’ leftover hummus!

Tuna Salad Remix: Give your usual tuna sandwich a makeover! Mix together small can of tuna with tablespoon of mayo OR extra virgin olive oil. Add in dill, chopped sweet onion, and a handful of raisins to mix it up. Top with sliced cucumber, salt and pepper and roll it up into a wrap of your choice. Serve with a dill pickle, or two!

Almond Butter Wrap: This may sound strange, but I swear it’s absolutely delicious, especially when you are in the mood for sweet. Spread 2 TB all natural almond butter onto a whole grain or brown rice wrap. Top with sliced banana, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey or agave syrup. Roll it up and enjoy the bliss. Serve with a side of sliced apples ‘n’ cinnamon.

Meat-Lover’s Delight: This is the perfect wrap for those craving a heartier lunch! Just layer on your favorite turkey (cracked pepper or maple would be great), ham, roast beef and cheddar cheese. Spread on Dijon mustard, lettuce, and tomato and call it a day (er, a wrap)! Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes or Cajun seasoning for an extra kick. Serve with pretzels!

Turkey Avocado Melt: Place fresh mozzarella cheese on your wrap of choice. Pop it in the toaster for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Top with a few slices of turkey, 1/2 avocado sliced, cucumber, salt and pepper. Wrap it up, and pop it back in the toaster for another minute to make it all good ‘n’ crunchy. Serve with sweet potato chips…mmm.

Oh, and if you’d rather buy your lunch (who doesn’t once in a while?) you must check out today’s CoupMe deal that gets you $10 worth of food at The Pita Pit for only $5! Doesn’t get much better than tasty, healthy, homemade pitas…

Sushi Me Please!

October 26, 2010

Twenty, even ten years ago, raw fish would have been thought as a straight trip to the hospital. These days, it seems more like an every day norm. CoupMe is here to let you know the real truth behind the crazed western phenomenon sweeping the nation. (And CoupMe too)!

We all have our favorite sushi rolls: California for the more traditional, Spicy Tuna for the more typical, and Tempura for the more adventurous. No matter your preference, there are some ins and outs of sushi you might just not know about! For example, did you know that sushi actually ISN’T raw fish? In fact raw fish is called sashimi, which is just sliced raw fish, sometimes simply dipped in sauces and sometimes served with sushi. Sushi is any food dish consisting of vinegared rice. The reason behind the vinegared rice is mainly to increase shelf life, not that you should be purchasing sushi off of any shelves! The  sushi that we are commonly familiar with is fully cooked sea food, including: cooked imitation crab (i.e. California roll); smoked salmon (i.e. Seattle roll); grilled squid or octopus; fully cooked shrimp; and fully cooked clam. Who knew? Well either way the Western way of creating sushi is fine in our books. Maybe we have all been deceived by thinking we have been consuming raw fish, but it is quick and delicious so it’s A-OK with CoupMe!

And that is why we have delivered you the BEST sushi place in Boston! Conveniently located on Boylston Street right by Fenway, Basho Sushi is now a Boston favorite sushi go to with what one Yelper claims as, “over-the-top maki rolls.” I have a sushi date with one of my good friends on Thursday night and I can promise you, we will be heading to Basho Sushi with our CoupMe to try out this raved about Sushi place – even if it really isn’t all raw fish!

~Becky, CoupMe

To Tan or Not to Tan?

October 25, 2010

Last week, I touched on the merits of tanning in the CoupMe blog, with today’s deal for BosTan as my inspiration. BosTan’s offering our readers the option of your traditional bed tan or a spray tan. Always looking out for your best interests, CoupMe’s official tanning research team (moi!) scoured the internet to find scientific proof that tanning is good for you. Good news! Tanning does inspire the skin to produce more Vitamin D. As we Bostonians know, the winter months get seriously cold and gray, and we often need the pick-me-up of some sun. The high-level beds and booths we often tan in today use UVA rays (the same kind of melanin-stimulating rays that come from the sun), which are less damaging than UVB rays.

Here’s a little tip, too: treating your skin right and keeping moisturized will help develop and prolong the life of your tan. Start by building your base tan (2-4 visits, depending on your skin type) using an accelerator. When you’re ready to really start browning, move to a bronzer, which adds pigment to the skin. If you’re feeling really crazy, you can opt for a tingle lotion (view my favorite here), which actually stimulates mircocirculation near the top layers of the skin. After any tanning session, be sure to moisturize with your favorite lotion (I find Vaseline Intensive Care is my go-to) to keep your skin moist and healthy. Doing so will also extend the life of your tan.

I almost always purchase a California Tan product but have had some luck with Australian Gold as well. I also don’t fall for that line in the shops that you must pay full retail price for lotion. Amazon.com has a host of good vendors for lotions at wholesale prices that are authentic. Eye protection is key, too, and all salons are required to provide it, but may charge a small fee.

Option #2, the spray tan, poses no health concerns at all! Speaking as a gal who once bought a bottle of Clinique instant tanning lotion and turned herself orange to look “hot” for a high school dance, I have to admit that the spray tan has come a long way. Get the same benefits of relaxation and self-pampering without exposing yourself to the sun at all!

Bottom line? BosTan, and many other local salons, offers your conventional indoor tan, which has come a long way from those harmful UVB-based beds with 20 minute time limits, along with the option to avoid the sun altogether with a spray tan. Both options will leave you looking brown and healthy and feeling great– no trip to the Caribbean required! Purchase your CoupMe today for a little vacation of your own…

Cheers,

Allison

A Night on the Town with CoupMe

October 22, 2010

T.G.I.F. Am I right, CoupMe visitors? No day evokes the dual feelings of optimism and excitement than Friday – especially Friday afternoons, when you begin planning your evening step-by-step. If you feel like you’re reached a dull spot with your normal weekend routine, we here at CoupMe have the cure! With members of the CoupMe team coming from all over the Boston area, we pooled our thoughts and favorites in order to provide you, our readers, with a fun list to refer when deciding where to head during those weekend (or weekday, we don’t judge here!) nights!

For Becky, the Faneuil area is the bee’s knees. Faneuil is a terrific spot, as it offers so many different types of bars, lounges, happy hour spots, etc, and many people flock here, so you’re always bound for much interaction. Becky enjoys hitting Jose McIntyre’s, found just outside the aquarium on Milk Street. Where else, other than Boston, can you find a Mexican-Irish bar? In addition to 60-ounce margaritas, Jose Macs has 3.5 bars and 2 floors full of fun. Definitely a place to hit. Just across the street from Jose’s is a place that I personally love, called An Tain’s. With $1 drafts of Miller Lite’s and energetic DJ’s, this place is a hidden gem. Further into Faneuil is another Becky favorite – Hennessey’s, which offers 80s cover bands, other live bands, plenty of drink variety and a dance floor upstairs.

Moving outside of Boston, Somerville and Cambridge have what feels like a million great places to frequent. Both Kristen and Allison here at CoupMe have their favorite in these areas. Kristen, ever the Davis Square groupie, loves to frequent Red Bones for its terrific BBQ offerings, but especially for Underbones – the bar located … you guessed it, underneath the restaurant. With plenty of great beer on tap, Underbones is real favorite for locals – not to mention its Wheel of Beer, where people can spin it and then get to drink whatever it lands on (for a price, obviously!). Kristen also enjoys the Somerville Theatre, which has numerous movies playing at all times, from current mainstream and indie releases to classics, such as Jaws, which played in August. With the ability to buy beer at the concession stands, the theatre is great spot to start your night! My personal favorite in Davis is the Burren, which presents a twofold strategy. The front room is your typical comfortable Irish bar, with Irish music playing; however, if you wander into the back room (with its own bar!) you’ll find a live cover band, playing anything from the best of the 90’s to Bluegrass. It’s always a great time at the Burren.

In Cambridge, Allison has taken a real liking to a couple places, such as Lord Hobo and The Druid. Lord Hobo’s is found on Hampshire street in Cambridge, just outside of Central Square and has consistently been mentioned as one of the best “Beer Bars” in Boston by locals. With nearly 30 different and tasty beers available, it lives up to its reputation. The Druid is a great local pub found right in Inman Square and really captures the traditional Irish vibe. Want the best tasting pint of Guinness around? Hit up The Druid.

If you find yourself over by the Garden after game-night, be sure to stop at one of Rachel’s favorites The Harp, where Rachel practically lives. She’s really into the live bands, the great music always playing and obviously, the dancing. The Harp is great all-encompassing bar, where you can engage in all of the previously mentioned activities, or simply chill with friends and chat. Want a real feel of Boston? Try Sully’s Tap for any sporting event. While not luxurious, its fan base is knowledge and the bar has great beer deals.

Finally, if you’re in the Brighton area, there are gems to be found! You can start at the Brighton Beer Garden, which has a lot of great beers on tap and what feels like a thousand TVs on the walls. From there, you can try the Green Briar in Brighton center, which is another great Irish pub that has live music playing on the weekend. Warning – this place gets packed! Finally, as I usually like to do, you can close out your night at The Last Drop, a real local favorite since it’s truly open until 2 a.m. that serves really cheap beers and has TVs and darts. Be careful though – you’re not the only person aware of this place, as it fills up quickly right around 12:30 to 1 am.

So hopefully now you have more than enough ideas to play with for this upcoming weekend. You should definitely also check out our deal for today at Bull McCabe’s in Somerville, which has built quite the reputation in its two-year existence. You can find the deal here. T.G.I.F. and enjoy your weekend CoupMe fans!

~ Seth, CoupMe

Cold Weather Fiestas

October 21, 2010


The weather is cooling down, and for a lot of us, that means it’s dark before we get home from work and our night consists of changing into sweats and curling up on the couch. (Am I the only one who can burn through a season of The Office in a couple of weeks once the temperature goes down?) Instead of hunkering down, take advantage of the coziness of home by inviting friends over. You’ll save money at the bars, and you won’t even need to put on a jacket. But surely you can do better than having everyone over and popping in a movie, right? Right. We came up with three great types of parties that will beat your winter blues–and tips on how to pull them off.

Host a Tasting: Whether it’s wine or cheese or a chili cook-off, everyone loves food and alcohol. By hosting a tasting or food competition, you’ve created the ideal situation: everyone’s bringing a dish or bottle, so you don’t have to be responsible for all the food and drinks, but you look super organized, because the night has a theme. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask your guests to bring bottles of the same type of wine from different countries or regions, and you provide the snacks.
  • Challenge your friends to a pasta cook-off, and have salad, dessert, and a couple of bottles of wine there to reward them for their trouble.
  • If you have some creative buddies who are willing to prep for your party, ask everyone to come up with a signature drink on a theme (the holidays, a specific fruit, or even something a little weird), bring the ingredients, and host a cocktail party/best drink contest.
  • OK, OK, sometimes you do just want to curl up with a movie. Monthly movie nights beat book clubs any time. Assign one person a month to bring a flick no one has seen. Pop popcorn and crack open beers. It couldn’t be any easier than that.

You can be creative with your get-togethers, but the key is setting a specific day every month where you’ll all gather to beat the winter blues, enjoy each other’s company, and eat and drink for a fraction of what you’d pay at a restaurant.

Brunch It Up: The price and pressure of having a big group over for dinner–not to mention that, let’s face it, a lot of us don’t have enough table space for more than four!–can be discouraging. But you know what’s cheap and quick to make? Brunch! Thanks to its breakfast/lunch hybrid, you don’t have to have anyone over before 11 a.m., and a combination of quick cooking and ready-made items will mean your place beats a diner any day. Some tips for a successful brunch (where you can sleep in!):

  • Prep what you can the night before. Bake or buy muffins and pastries, set the coffee to auto-timer, and set up a buffet on a counter or table. Check and be sure you have the essentials–cream cheese, sugar, milk–so you (or your devoted significant other) can make a late-night run to the convenience store if something’s missing.
  • Decide what you want to make versus what you want to buy. Yes, I know people who make homemade donuts, but those people are not me. Make a list of what you’re going to serve, and then plan to make about a third of it. If people want to pitch in, assign them to bring bagels, donuts, or fixings for bloody Marys or mimosas the morning of the brunch so you don’t have to make a last-minute trip for fresh goodies.
  • Pull out all the stuff that’s been hiding in your cabinets. Brunch is a great time to use the electric griddle (for pancakes), pitchers (for mixed morning drinks), gigantic platters (to serve an array of breakfast meats), and cloth napkins (line baskets with them and place bagels or pastries in). It’s the stuff you never thought you’d use, but it’s perfect for feeding breakfast to a crowd.
  • Make it in bulk. Cooking bacon in a pan is fine when it’s just you, but when you’re busy talking to your friends and making pancakes, I can assure you: you’ll only end up with burnt bacon. Almost anything, even bacon, can be baked in the oven. It’s a low-risk, easy way of getting things cooked.

Capitalize on the Holidays:Of course, there’s always the option of planning a party around a theme or holiday. Lucky for you, parties with friends are usually far lower on drama, in-law tension and general running around than family holidays, so you can relax and enjoy!

  • Have an early Thanksgiving. Ask each guest to bring their favorite side and you provide the bird. (Or, you can give into the truth and just have a dinner of sides. Who really does Turkey Day for the turkey?) This is a great way to get everyone together before the holiday season and to give everyone a chance to eat their favorite holiday food…twice!
  • Take the pressure off Christmas. With a list of holiday gifts a mile long to buy, most of us don’t want to worry about which of our friends we should buy for or how much we should spend. Who wants to take another hour in the wall? Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa. Tip: Be very clear about the parameters, setting a budget for the gifts and deciding whether you’re doing gag gifts or the real thing. It helps alleviate the awkwardness and/or anxiety people often feel about gift giving. Then, have everyone over for some egg nog, tree decorating and gift swapping–a great chance to pause and take in the holidays.

So back away from the couch and the remote and get party planning! Whether it’s a one-time celebration or a monthly gathering, the cold weather doesn’t meant we have to become a bunch of hermits.

Tell us: what are your best ideas for party hosting?

CoupMe’s Guide to Making Yourself Happy

October 20, 2010

With some buzz around the office about upcoming tanning deals, I’ve started thinking about ways I make myself happy, especially during fall months when I’m inevitably busy with work, preparing for holiday parties, and generally swamped. Tanning’s been known to help you out with that seasonal mood disorder stuff, boosting your endorphins, and making you look all around more brown. I’ll happily throw on a pair of wink-ease and spend a quick stint at the electric beach, but if you’re not interested for the known health risks, there’s always the spray tan option. There are also a few other ways you can take some time out to give yourself that R & R you totally deserve.

First, I’m hopping on the bandwagon and singing the praises of yoga. Vinyasa, ashtanga, hatha, yin, even bikram. All styles emphasize the joining of the mind and body on a quest to find flexibility, strength, and ultimately, relaxation (and maybe you’ll be able to stand on your head, for an added bonus). Nearly two years of the deep breathing later, I can finally find complete peace while practicing. Here’s the secret: take the time out of your day– an hour, 75 minutes, whatever you have– and commit to being present at the class. Time exists, but what’s going on outside of the studio space doesn’t matter. These yogis are imparting a wisdom that’s really not rocket science: we can’t control the past, or the future, so our time is best spent focusing on the present and fully experiencing every moment. Ideally, we do this all the time, but for those of us crazy multi-taskers doing a million things at once, yoga class may be the only time during the day that we can do this.

Next, retail therapy. Cheaper than the kind where you sit on a chaise and chat with your shrink (in most cases). Take yourself out and buy something. A comfy sweater? Shoes? A new gadget? Even a gift for a friend. Nothing says “I love me” more than dropping what you’re doing and treating yourself. 

Finally, food. Who doesn’t love getting their nom on? With last week’s CoupMe deal to RF O’Sullivan and a restaurant deal here at CoupMe every Friday, we’ve got our pick of the best Boston eats on a budget. Take yourself out for the meal you’ve been craving (here’s mine), or get creative in the kitchen and whip up something tasty. Dining out and cooking are also great ways to get social– grab an old friend and get some chow, or surprise the roomies with a home-cooked meal.

Here’s a small sampling of my personal picks for doing nice things for myself any time I feel I deserve it! What other ways do you treat yourself?

Keep smilin’,

Allison

Our CoupMe Staff Picks!

October 19, 2010

It’s always a comfort to know that the CoupMes we selling are being put to good use. We have heard great stories from our CoupMe customers raving about their wonderful experiences at some of New England’s finest restaurants, spas, fitness centers, and more. We love to hear these stories and have some great one’s ourselves ready to share with you too!

So here is a brief highlight of some of our staff’s favorite CoupMe experiences:

Staff member Rachel never thought she’d set foot in a hot yoga class, until she tried it out for a CoupMe video and fell in love. Rachel states, “I love how how much you sweat from it.  While it’s pretty tough during the class, you feel wonderful afterward-healthy, strong, and beautiful!”

You can read about her experience with hot yoga here: Day in The Life of a Hot Yoga Newbie

Allison has been using CoupMe to places right in her neighborhood, continuously finding great stuff to do so close to home that she can walk there! Allison has booked a massage right down the street from her at Seasons of Genesis. She also purchased her R.F. O’Sullivan‘s CoupMe this past weekend. She has been going to this all-star burger restaurant for years, and is ecstatic to have a great reason to go back. $8 for $16 worth of burgers and beers most certainly is!

Kristin told me that she just bought one for Pescatore and used it the same night. It was amazing because she was moping around the house not wanting to make dinner and wishing she had a frozen pizza in the freezer or something, and her husband whipped out the CoupMe. Yay! Also, she bought the Urban Spoon one and can’t wait to use it one day to get her house cleaned. Basically they’re making her lazy, so that’s good. 🙂

Now for me, I used my Red Mango CoupMe with a friend after we had dined at Gari (another CoupMe featured business). We didn’t have a CoupMe this time, but YUM! We’ve  never been to the fun frozen yogurt shop before, but now that I have gone, I can’t wait to go again! Red Mango is currently featuring a seasonal pumpkin flavor too, which I think would be good topped with some granola or maybe some organic Oreo crumbles.

I also recently purchased cooking classes over at Culinary Underground as a fun activity to do with my Mom. With all of the amazing class offerings and my emergence into the cooking world, I cannot wait to try this place out!

We’d love to hear about more of your CoupMe experiences! In fact, if you send us pictures and/or videos of you using your CoupMe, you might be the lucky hand-selected winner to snag $50 worth of CoupMe bucks. Just make sure your CoupMe is in the picture or video and you have a chance to win! Please submit any entries to pictures@coupme.com. We can’t wait to see and hear all about your great CoupMe experiences 🙂

And for now, in case you are feeling a little under the weather, be sure to check out our great Boston Acupuncture Deal today. With two convenient locations in Needham and Brookline, Nicole Brown Acupuncture is sure to treat any ailments you may be dealing with. And with holiday stress right around the corner, this could be the perfect gift for a friend, family member, and most importantly you!

~Becky, CoupMe