Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Budget Friendly Living: Designer WTF?

Okay, just bear with me today.  I had to rant.  I am SO sick of shows, magazines, websites, etc claiming to save me hundreds while revamping my home, closet, etc.  Why, you ask?  It seems so great!  A cheaper alternative when redecorating, getting a new wardrobe, and so on.  Why WOULDN'T I want to save big money?

Well, then we read the fine print.  And we realize that we will be buying something from DSW instead of BCBG or from BCBG instead of Gucci.  I may be in the minority here, but I still can't afford $80 shoes, and the $300 or $3,000 options never even ENTERED my mind.  I have couture taste, don't get me wrong, but I often consider PAYLESS to be too expensive.  Sigh.  I guess there just is no helping me.  And I guess that is why I have this blog.  Because when I figure out how to make Jimmy Choos myself, I will want to share it.  :-P

I don't quite know how it happened, but it seems like from birth I have been a sale hound.  I like resale stores, I like clearance racks, and I LOVE garage sales.  I often complain about paying full price for anything, with the exception of food, perhaps.  I complain that resale stores are too expensive for my baby clothes.  Garage sales are awesome, because I love to haggle.  I always challenge the seller to make me a deal, and I have no problem asking for a discount, especially when I buy more than one item.  I figure, its up to them to say no.  But I am not a miser (I can give things away like nothing).  I just like to spend my money judiciously.  I refuse to go crafting without a coupon, and my mantra is NPFP - never pay full price.

It never occurred to me that this was abnormal until I was shopping at JC Penney with an equally budget conscious friend a few weeks ago, and I balked at buying 2 dresses off the regular racks, and went straight to clearance.  Her response was "I don't have the patience for the clearance rack."  Blew. My. Mind.  She is so careful with her money, saving on groceries and has a crazy detailed budget like me.  She is a stay at home mommy of 2, so that single income is stretched thin!  And here she was, thinking nothing of buying off the regular rack!  Ha ha.  I had an epiphany right then and there.  Maybe it was okay to spend a little money here and there!  I always thought my husband was spoiling me, offering to buy me both when I couldn't decide between 2 $5 items.  I AGONIZE over purchases, making sure I am getting the most bang for my buck, that I will not regret my purchase, and that the item is both incredibly useful and essential.  And I do mean agonize.  I lost sleep and cried over purchases when planning my wedding.  It was hard for dollars to leave my hands.  So, now the revelation: maybe I'm a little too eccentric.  I have lived on a shoestring for ages, but perhaps relaxing a little is okay here and there.  Its a great thing to watch your spending, but you can be irresponsibly thrifty, too.  My lesson of the day: it causes stress to not watch your money, but its just as stressful to be too tight.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

These are a few of my favorite things... garlic press

My garlic press.
I admit, I stumbled on this one.  I was at a kitchen store and just happened to pick it up.  It RULES.  The Zyliss garlic press has a hinge on it so the garlic doesn't squirt out the sides or the back where there is a gap because of the arc in the pressing motion... If you don't understand what I am saying, go try your grandmother's garlic press.  Then come back when you are covered in garlic juice and still have to mince it, and buy one of these.  Its not the easiest to clean as it doesn't have one of those plug backs that forces the garlic back through all the little holes so you can remove the leftovers, but I just force it out with water pressure by putting it flush with the faucet or use a brush.  I don't care if there are tiny bits left.  It only gets used for garlic after all. Truly this is a staple of my kit hen. Seems like everything I make has garlic in it!

These are a few of my favorite things... cookbooks

It occurred to me the last night as I murdered yet another can with my crappy (and new... and expensive) can opener, that I have some strong opinions about products. Like most people, I'm often dismayed by items that don't perform, and a little put off by the sea of crappy choices in many categories, like appliances (both big and small). Places like amazon are great because you can read product reviews, but reading hundreds of reviews on 10 or 20 items is exhausting and leaves me with information overload, and often no clearer picture of what to buy. Personal references from friends are great but sometimes I don't know anyone to ask or my friends don't have the same needs from a product. So I thought, maybe by listing stuff I like here and why, I can help people who are like me to find reliable products that fill their needs. I am really lame, I know, but I have to try... manufacturers suck...  So here is the first in a series of many (hopefully).

My favorite cookbook.
The New Best Recipe from America's Test Kitchen is fabulous on so many levels.  First of all, it is HUGE (over 1,000 recipes).  There are very few recipes for "normal" food that aren't in there.  Second, it reads like a book, not a cookbook.  Each recipe has an introduction telling a little about their expectations for the dish (which is good because if yours are different you can modify to suit you; ie: spiciness), many have preparation tips or tips on how to choose ingredients, and interspersed are product reviews on the best kitchen gadgets and tools.  If you have ever seen their TV show on PBS, it reads like an episode (if you haven't, check it out!).  Third, it teaches as it gives you the recipe.  I have become SUCH a better cook after cooking with this book because I understand the science of food, I know new terms, and I know new techniques.  Dishes I used to think were hard are commonplace meals for us now, like beef stroganoff or french onion soup.  I will issue one slight word of caution.  If you fall in love with this book, don't buy any more in the series.  I am not sure about the light and 30 minute books, but I bought the baking book and it was all the same recipes as in this one, with maybe a handful of new ones.  This book is all you need.  My friend recommended it to me and she lovingly calls it "the bible" and its kinda true.  Its a reference book as well as a recipe book. I LOVE IT!

Note: I don't get money from these people.  Although I do GIVE them a lot, buying these things for myself and as gifts for people I like...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nerdy Halloween costumes for a family

Ahh it's that time of year again.  The only reason I will EVER look forward to fall is because of Halloween.  Well, maybe when kidlets are older I'll look forward to school starting, but for now, it's Halloween or bust.

And this year we have a new person to dress.  Much like Ren Faire this year, the thing I am looking forward to most is the costume for little man.  Sure, I am making something awesome for a friend of mine and I am working on a quilt/duvet cover I have been commissioned to make (and I am CLUELESS by the way), but the thing I am thinking about most is a cool costume for my son.  And of course, I want to go as a themed family unit, so now I am pondering the options for all three of us.  And I have GOT to start sooner this year so I am not making a costume right before we leave for the party like I did last year while preggers.  Although I have not completely made up my mind just yet, Hubby seems to really like the idea of little man going as Mario, so I think that is what will end up happening.  But here are some of our family themed ideas. WARNING!  They are incredibly nerdy, and most are video game related. :-)

(Order: Mother, father, baby/child)
Samus, Space pirate, Metroid larva (from Super Metroid) <-- My personal favorite
Zelda, Link, Young Link or Navi/fairy
Mrs. & Mr. Pac Man with a dot or a ghostie
Princess Peach, Mario, Toad
Princess Peach, Bowser, Koopa Kid/Bob-omb/Koopa
Maid, Butler, Child in frilly gown or mini tuxedo/suit
Wendy, Peter Pan, Lost Boy
Three nesting tetris blocks

These are only those I could remember off the top of my head.  I can't seem to find the piece of paper I wrote all my ideas down on.  Oh well!  I may post more in the future, just for fun.  Happy Halloween!