Thursday, February 28, 2013

Daily Pic | February Edition

It was a month of cold windchills and some snowy days. We passed notes and had parties at work while enduing a roller coaster of building climates & conditions.  I got hooked on The Americans and power watched White Collar on Netflix.  We saw the animated shorts at the Clairidge and were blown away by Local Natives at the Bowery Ballroom.  

We battled colds, saw family, and celebrated Valentines day.  There were trips to HMart and new recipes with new ingredients.  We went to a restaurant with one of the largest selections of draft beers and had a waiter who'd never heard of a beer flight.  I had fun sister time and lots of good design.  

I rocked out to the new album from Foals.  I said goodbye to a pair of sneakers I've had for over ten years from a store that closed ages ago.  I declared the official opening to the season of jellybean and cadbury consumption.  

I'd say I made the most of a short month! Lots of fun things on tap for March.... so bye bye Feb!  Oh yeah, ZEE GRID!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Saving a Buck

We're newlyweds.  We're creatives.  We're lucky to have good jobs but... we are in that classic 'just starting out' time in our lives where one day, we'll tell our kids and grandkids about all the things we used to do to save a buck.  I know for a fact that my depression-era grandparents had an influence on me, whether it be genetic or just observed.  My dad's mother has even been known to wash ziplock bags and re-use them over and over.  I may not go that far, (even though Tom could talk you ear off about how insanely I conserve papertowels [those things are expensive!!]) I am going to share with you my top list of things that have really saved me a bundle. 
Now, if you are lucky and financially satisfied, then well, this post isn't for you.  But if you too are young and cash poor, starting out, or trying to save, read on!
1) The number one EASIEST way we saved a TON of money in the past year was: committing to making our own coffee at home.  With cups at Dunkin or Quick Check costing around $1.60 a day (times two counting Tom's) we're saving a BUNDLE.  I buy large canisters of our fave blend, Maxwell House Original Roast.  I try to get them at Walmart where they are something like $8 but maybe as much as $11 at the grocery store.  I also go to Party Fair and buy disposable cups.  Now you may be wondering why I don't just use a thermos- even MORE savings.  The answer is... because I simple LOVE being able to throw the thing away and not have to wash out a thermos.  I cannot tell you HOW MANY thermos' I've had to chuck over the years because I start science experiments in them, due to my laziness.  NOT using a thermos is what led me to buying coffee at Dunkin or Quick Check every day in the 1st place.  So, anyway, the cups are $6 for like 100.  The lids are $5 for 100.  You can do the math, but over time.... this is big savings!!

2) Carpooling.  Well, this one I owe to my dear friend Jessi.  Back during Hurricane Sandy we carpooled to our remote office one day.  We only live a few miles from each other, so during that time of gas crisis, we met in the middle and drove together, then switched drivers+cars for the next day.  After Sandy we realized, 'Hey, we can save a buck here'.  It would make me too depressed to sit down and really calculate how much $ I dump into my 50 mile a day commute between gas and tolls but now, it's one less day a week.  We try to carpool on Tuesday and Thursday.  Its been great.  And again, it might not be a lot right now, but over time, it will add up to a nice savings.

3) Ya know how on TV when a chef won't reveal a secret ingredient that makes his recipe so great?  Well, this tip is like that.  From me to you.  SALAD BAR.  I'm only cooking for two right now.  That means that, buying an entire bag of celery or carrots for a recipe means I'm either stressfully trying to think of how to use it up for the rest of the week or, I'm feeling guilty when I don't and throw it away cause its gone bad.  Like I've said in previous posts; I cook healthfully 99% of the time.  And healthfully means produce.  And produce is expensive and perishable.  SO, now I go to the salad bar and make little containers of carrots or cellery or mushrooms or tomatoes (you get the idea) for the just the amount we'll use.  It usually totals somethign around 3 dollars and there will be no waste.  This is HUGE when it comes to bagged spinach/lettuce/arugula.  Those pre-packed bags are a RIP OFF.  Fill a box at the salad bar with spinach- it weighs nothing and you'll pay $1 and change instead of $5+.

4) Not everything is at the salad bar...  some stuff I buy at my favorite produce Market (this should get a # of its own because produce there is SO cheap, but its pretty specific to my town).  If I haven't gotten to something, I'll often cook it up in the evening and then freeze it.  I KNOW you're seeing my Great Depression Era grandmothers in me right now... but what can I say.... I spend enough money on cute things for the house or treats.  I need to save somewhere!

5) I always, always, always check ebay first.  Sneakers, lamps, clothes, vinyl, you name it.  Check ebay first!

6) Never buy custom frames; ever!!  I ALMOST made this fatal error this year when I got a 65% off coupon to Michaels for a custom frame job and i wanted a 23ish" frame.  They quoted me $115 for the simplest frame they had with no matt.  NO NO NO!  Go to Home Goods!  Buy some ugly piece of framed art (I paid $39 for mine), paint the fame if necessary, take out whats in there and swap in the art of your choice.  Voila!

That's all I can think of for now... One day I hope to include saving $ at concerts by sneaking in our drinks in a flask, but I can't get the hubs on board with that one.  Sighhhh....

Until next time... or, we hit the lotto...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Let's Hear it for the... Girls!

So I thought I'd share some valentines lovin from 2013.  Let's be honest.... while valentine's day is a holiday dedicated to romance, it really is more of a holiday for 'da ladiez.  You're supposed to give her flowers, chocolates, fancy card.... reservations... etc.

I like to try to shower the girls in my life with the luv they deserve cause really, while i love doing something special for my man, its really the chicks that appreciate these things!!!!

This year, besides sending out some valentines and a cute care package to my nieces, I decided to do some crafting for my faves.  Unfortch, i knew my bff would be off in tropical paradise this valentines day so I just sent her a cute card for her return.

For my sis and work besties, mother nature gave me a weekend of snow and thus, crafting.
I made these lil wooden hearts with their names on one side and designy stuff on the other.  I was excited to get to use the power drill for this project!!  I just strung some bright thread through the holes and I guess they can hang them?  Not sure they serve any real purpose, but they're fun to look at!

For the work girls, who also happen to both be HUGE Disney lovers, I picked up the most random Disney asian cookie treats while we were at HMart the other night.  They were so weird & cool and I knew they'd like them.  They sold a chocolate & a strawberry flavor.  The packaging looked so dated in some way... but then again, all the packaging at HMark makes you pause.

And, for mi hermana, i got some of this and some of that.  I started off making a little garland for her based on this.  I went with, 'Be still my heart'.  It was a perfect snow day activity.  I also got a boring box from work and lined it in awesome paper then filled it with our traditional gift of an unmentionable, cool sunglasses, hello kitty cotton candy, and some twizzlers/tootsie rolls (her faves).  I SUCK and didnt get a picture of the final product which was sad cuz it looked really cool.  But she did take a cool picture of what she did with the little garland afterward!


Now, I was also the recipient of some awesomeness!!  Mere worked her magic with the washi tape and gifted me the MOST amazing bracelet that I adore. 

My work girl also sweetly gave me yummy candy with an adorable note.

It was a fun valentines day for sure; Sushi Ya was as good as always and we even sprung for 2 flavors of mochi ice cream.  Green tea & red bean.

Lastly, just for the record, my man gave me THE coolest gift:

My first plan is to sprinkle some on kale chips.  :) And when I'm not using it, the colors are AMAZING to look at on my kitchen shelf. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

DIY Faux Fireplace; Revisited!

So, I haven't checked in about the 'fireplace' in ages! Here's where we're at!

I'll back it up a smidge and start around Christmas.  I used the same reindeer stocking holders as in 2011, but added some candlesticks we got as a shower gift, a little toy car I attached a mini tree to, my new collection of reindeer and our Foldable Me's!  I got that little shelter for my mini-nativity from Dollar Tree for a BUCK! Ohh! And a lovely gold/white dipped pinecone from my dear sister. :)

After Christmas, during the January apartment revamp, I decided to keep the's, my zig-zag painting, and our new fabulous faux-bois planter from anthro (amazing xmas gift from again, dear sister).  I nabbed an awesome fake plant for it at homegoods and luuuv it.

The other side still needed attention.  I had the twiggy photoframe for a while which I popped a pic of Tom and I into. The amethyst colored geode was my souvenir from the grand canyon while on our honeymoon.  [Tom's too nice to actually tell people exactly HOW many stores I dragged him into and HOW much time I spent looking at rocks and geodes on that trip.  yikes.]
It still needed onnnne more thing.  I stopped in TJ Maxx one day at lunch and found a cool black mini-globe.  I liked it a bit and it was $9.00.  I would have been over the moon for it if it was an astronomical map rather than geographical but, oh well!  I knew I needed something with a little height so I bought it.  Turns out, I LOVED how it looked in that little grouping.  I added my old white clay mini-campfire (from... guess who! lol.....) and voila!  A grouping I am so so happy with.  

I guess the last touch was finally getting to drawing the fire in the fireplace.  We had a party last year and all our friends signed it so it took a while to be ready to erase that.  But, luckily the drawing turned out okay and now we have a nice roaring fire to keep toasty with this winter ;)

For extra special occasions, (and for Hurricane Sandy) I've lit all those candles in the tray.   It looks AWESOME.  

 And, that's the update!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Good Eats...

We've been in our apartment for over a year now, and in that time of co-habitating, T has kindly eaten more than one dissapointing meal.  (My overcooked meat/undercooked rice night still leads the pack....)

I would say the good thing is that I really only cook nutritious, fresh meals and often attempt to execute recipes that I put together in my own head.  The bad thing is that.... these don't always work out awesomely! 

My two biggest problems are probably that we don't have a dishwasher (so sometimes I cut corners trying to save a dish or pan from becoming dirty), and I probably worry more than I should about food poisoning and will always err on the side of overcooking meat.  

Oh well.

Then again.... I've knocked a lot of dinners out of the park!!!   This recipe is one of them.  
I have searched all over for really wide rice noodles.  These worked really well.  I found them at an awesome local Asian market, which will be a post for another day.

It's kind of a throw-together-what-you-have stir fry.  Rather than let my veggies go bad when we won't get to them (HUGE waste of $ for youngsters like us),  I'll often cook them up and freeze them; then they're all ready to roll when I want to use them.  So this recipe was a mix of stuff from the fridge and stuff I had cooked before and froze.

Asian Wide Noodle Stir-Fry
3/4 cup shredded carrot

3/4 cup mushrooms

1 cup chopped parsnips (Earlier, I had roasted these in the oven at 400º with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 25 mins. Let some get brown)

1 1/2 cups cooked Fennel (I had sautéed this earlier in the week with onion powder, garlic salt, white wine & black pepper)

1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken  (i love this shortcut, esp with the high price of chicken. We can get 2-3 meals from one chicken and they're only $7)

2 1/2  cups rice flakes, or any asian noodle.  Cook per package directions. 

Sauce: Sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, 3 tsp Hoisin sauce, 1 T brown sugar, 1 tsp red wine vinegar. 
I eyeballed all these proportions but in the end figure you'll want about 3/4 cup of saucy goodness

Drizzle saute pan with a teaspoon of sesame oil. (its pricey but packs MAJOR flavor)
Add 3/4 cup of shredded carrot and let sauté until soft.  

Add mushrooms, fennel, chicken, parsnips and rice flakes.

Pour sauce over the top.  Toss and heat through.  I probably added 1/2 a cup of water and just let this bubble/steam covered with foil for about 6 or 7 mins over med heat.  

We sprinkled ours with Togarashi because we're obsessed with it, but hot pepper flakes would work, or cayenne.

I think the reason these ingredients all work so well together is because they are all inherently sweet. Carrots, parsnips and fennel are all sweet veggies and the saltiness of the soy/hoisin/fish sauce are just awesome together.  

Obviously if you don't have all the pre-cooked ingredients, just sauté them in the beginning and when they're the desired texture, add those rice flakes/noodles and the sauce.

Lastly, I didn't even bother taking a picture cause this dish isn't a looker and I take TERRIBLE food pics. BUT, it woulda been AMAZING with some fresh chopped cilantro and chopped peanuts on top.  Ahh, next time. . . :)

P.S. Kale or some type of leafy green would have been AMAZING in this.  Also could easily be a vegetarian dish.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Life Changing Eats




Your ice cream experience will never be the same again.
Drizzle maple syrup over chocolate ice cream.  Top with a crank or 2 of sea salt.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Daily Pic | January Edition

Hello one and probably, just the one... It's January.  Actually, now it's February!  January lived up to its reputation and felt like a loooooong month.
Let me think on the highlights:

Rang in the new year with my hubby, a terrible dinner at Mamma Shitoria and an off beat flick called 'The Loneliest Planet'.  The trailer made it look insane but while it was beautiful, it was a little anticlimactic.  

I used taking down the Christmas decorations as my catalyst to revamping the apt.  New curtains, a cool record player stand, some rearranging, various DIY, an emotionally obtained craigslist bench, new art, new desk for Tom, and goooooodbye elliptical!  The only sad part about losing the elliptical is T's make-believe microphone is now gone.  
We saw Purity Ring at Webster Hall.  To say it was an AMAZING show would be an understatement.  It was actually T's bday present to me.  The opener, Young Magic totally blew us away, and I picked up their album on the way out.  (After chatting with & girl-crushing on their female vocalist).
The next night we celebrated a buddies bday at his place and had a blast.  It was a pretty kickbutt weeknd.

Other highlights of the month included a yummy bday dinner out for T with my in-laws at Que Pasta, a LOVELY girls night with a million mini-donuts and avacado blt's at my sisters, a totally indulgent night at Bistro 55 with a gal-pal, a jaunt to New Brunswick for a tat-touchup on the coldest night in history (where we hit up Brother Jimmy's BBQ [if you go, get the 'swamp juice'!]) and last but not least, hosted an awesome Old Skool 33rd bday party at home for T.  A good time was had by all.  

Well, when I sum it up like that, its been an awesome month!  I also think it needs to be said that this month boasted more beautiful sunrises and sunsets than ever!!!!

 And, for visual proof that I'm still kickin it....
***Note the scarf variety!  This is huge.