Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Price of Purity--toxic free cleaning.

I'm coming clean.  I am a social-eco-freindly-ist.  I only recycle when I have company.  I refuse bags at the grocery store so the cashiers like me (and those reusable totes are so cute).  And when I must have a choice, I choose paper even though studies show that plastic is less toxic for the environment.  However, when it comes to the things I am breathing inside my house I always, always go the natural-green-eco-friendly-organic-enviromental-whateverwe'recallingitatthismoment route.  Unfortunately, as the ingredient list gets shorter, the price gets higher.  However, with a few cheap household items you can make your own organic cleaners and clean the way they did before chemists
made cleaning products.

Not only are organic products better for the environment and family, but they also smell good.
In the words of dear Coco, "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future."  Likewise, a house with no scent has no past worth remembering.  Every time I smell cranberries and cinnamon together I feel like I'm at home.  It was a mixture of my mom's cranberry and cinnamon candles and the Murphy's Oil soap she used to clean our wood floors.  With that said, choose your scent.  Go down to your local, organic grocery and choose the essential oil that fits your house and season.  Think of it as an investment.  This will be the most expensive thing you'll buy for these cleaners.  Right now mine is Lavender and Hops.  I'm also considering tangerine, verbena, cyprus, bergamot, or cinnamon.

Every day cleaner for countertops, linoleum, and windows
Mix the following in an empty spray bottle (Home Depot has one for 89 cents):
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
15-30 drops of your essential oil

At first when you spray this it will smell like vinegar.  However, as it dries the vinegar smell will go away and the scent of your oil will remain.

Tough Cleaner
You can also make a baking soda paste by mixing the baking soda, water, and your oil.  Then scrub with the paste and wash off with water.

If this doesn't work, sprinkle the tub with baking soda, then pour white vinegar on top of the baking soda.  Let it fizz.  Then scrub with a brush or sponge.  After the grime is gone, clean it with your every day cleaner.

For Furniture
1 t olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice or vinegar

To clean dark Hardwood
Brew your favorite black tea.  (use 5 teabags to 2 quarts of water--let is steep for 5-10 minutes).  Let the tea come to room temp, then mop the floors.  The tannins in the tea will make your floors shiny, the oils will moisturize your floors.

click here for other recipes

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Love Fleas: 10 steps to the price you want.

So, enough with food.  I know what you really want to know.  How do I buy furniture and china and clothing and all of my favorite things without breaking the bank?  How do I indulge without indulging?  How I buy the things I want for the price I want?  I'll tell you.  We'll start with my favorite place: the flea market.  To my loves at the flea market, please know I respect your work--I am merely a woman operating out of her need to be thrifty and brave.  Remember, ladies, as fancy, poor girls we must always be frugal and never cheap.

First things first.  Keep these things in mind as you go through these steps: You and your vendor share a love of things, particularly the things at the vendor's booth.  Have respect.  This is your vendors job and he needs to make money doing it.  You and your vendor are in a working relationship to make sure that both parties are on the good end of a deal. And last but not least, a smile and silence are your 2 best negotiating tools.

1. Scan the tables for desired objects.

2. When you have located the object of your desire say hello to the vendor, but don't touch the object.  Saying hello is important, as the flea market is not just any market--it's a relationship.  Ask the vendor if they are local or from out of town.  Tell the vendor how lovely his or her things are.  Get them talking to you.

3. Compliment the vendor on lovely items.  Contrary to popular belief, down talking items is not going to get you a better deal--it'll only make the vendor mad.  Remember, you are in a relationship.

4. After the vendor likes you and is watching you pick up at least 4 items and put them down before you pick up your desired item.

5. When the desired item is in your hand look over it and detect any holes, chips, or flaws.

6. ask how much it is.  They will tell you the highest amount they think they can get for it.

7. Find any other items you may want to purchase and find out how much those are before you begin negotiating (I know, I know, it's called haggling.  But haggling sounds so close to hag that I can't bring myself to use it).  Sometimes the price they ask for is a great price and you pay it.  If it's not worth that to you, read numbers eight and nine.  I have divided step # 8 into 4 different scenarios.

8.     A) If the vendor specializes in one particular item, chances are good that he is deeply passionate about that one item (say vintage clothing, china, silver, hardware etc) In this case you may not name your own price, as it might offend.  However you may say, "This piece is beautiful and I really want it.  However, I can't afford that today, would you take any less for it?"  Be silent and wait.  Asking for a lower price is not emberrassing, nor is it out of the ordinary--it's how the flea market works.  

      B) However, if the vendor has a conglomeration of things you may name your price.  Do not ever go below 55% of the named price--it's disrespectful and they will scoff at you and send you on your way.  When the vendor says $10, evaluate the object.  If it's not worth $10 to you, you may say "This piece is beautiful and I really want it.  However, I can't afford that today, would you take $7?"  Then be silent and wait.

    C) This is acceptable for either booth.  If you have multiple items you want to buy from one vendor, ask them to cut you a deal.  If the vendor is specialized he will name the price. If he is not specialized you may name the price.

   D) During step #5 you may have detected a flaw.  You may say, "It's a really lovely piece, but it does have a hole under the arm-pit.  However, I still really like it and would like to try to fix it.  Would you take $6 instead of $10?"

9. Be prepared for the vendor to dislike your price and do not take it personally.  She may say, "No, no.  That's too low.  How about $8?"  If it's worth it to you, do it.  If it's not, ask for $7.  However, she may not go down to $7, in which case you must make the decision to pay the $8 or walk away.

10. Always, always leave on friendly terms.  You never know what the vendor will have at the next flea market.

Monday, March 28, 2011

the Orthodoxy of Beans.

what do beans and Chesterton have in common?

Ok, so I only have 8 readers and at least 1/8 of you didn't believe me when I said rice and beans were tasty.  So that's one person.  And yet, to have 12.5 percent of my readers distrust everything I say from now on is just a chance I can't take this early in the game--this blog is a seedling. So, it is for you that I write this blog.  And, really, perhaps devoting a blog to you is not so silly, afterall.  I mean, Chesterton wrote Orthodoxy--an entire book-- in response to criticism on his book "Heretics."  Woah!  Did you feel that?? ...[wha..wha..wha..] What's that you say?...[wha wha wha wha]...Oh? Its Chesterton rolling over in his grave?  Ok.

Rice and beans have gotten a bad wrap for 2 reasons: 1) they are the symbol of poverty for Americans.  Every time I hear about someone's poor years they talk about eating rice and beans for every meal.  In fact, rice and beans might be the new "walked uphill, barefoot, in the snow, just to go to school." We don't want to feel impoverished or like we're suffering--especially if we're fancy.  And, yet, to be honest,  I think number 2 is the real reason: you're afraid of gas.  Go on.  Say it....."What's that you say?"...."Oh? "You don't have gas?".... "because fancy girls don't have gas?"....right, I knew that.  But let's be serious, you're afraid that you're going to eat rice and beans, go on your hot date, and explode--literally (I have a great/awesome/notawesome story about that, by the way).

Great news.  If you presoak the beans and cook them the entire way I doubt you'll have gas.  If you still have problems try adzuki beans.

Not only are they cheap (i.e. will help you redistribute money so you can buy your cab. and cheese), but they're really good for you, too.

Ok, enough with gas and Chesterton.

Here are some tasty recipes to try:

presoak 1/2 lb of black beans
cook beans and add 1/8 t cinnamon, 1/4 t salt, and cilantro
choose 4 of the following: cucumber, lettuce, salsa, tomato, cilantro, corn, rice, cheese, avocado, sour cream, lime, peaches

Red Beans and Rice (mmm.  sometimes I add kale sate'd with garlic and olive oil, then put the Rbeans ontop of it)
Mosoor Dal
Navy Beans and Eggplant Curry

Click here if you've never cooked beans from scratch

If you have a good recipe for beans rice, please post below.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fancy Pant-ry: how to eat for less than $20 per week

Fancy girls buy organic.  We buy grass-fed.  We buy artisan.  We buy specialty.  We buy the best of the best.  Fancy poor girls, however, take what is good and make it the best.
You need nourishment.  Without food you’ll fail to be fabulous.  Without fabulous you’ll fail to be fancy.  Without fancy you’ll fail to be yourself.  Good food is a must. In order to maintain a balanced diet one must have the following every day: fruit, veggies, protein, good fat, and fun in her diet.  The latter is essential.  Without weekly fun in her diet, the fancy girl will blow her paycheck on pistachio encrusted lamb, grown locally and organically, cooked to perfection at her favorite artisan restaurant, along with 2 glasses of Petit Syrah (been there.  done that.  $110 before-tip-thank-you-very-much). Just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you have to suffer.  It merely means you have to A) choose which things to enjoy and B) plan your meals weekly.
what I want to buy in my heart.

What I end up buying and loving just as much

Since we are choosing which things to enjoy, you get to have 2 grocery musts at the beginning of each week (more if you can afford them--less if you cannot). Items such jam, tea, olives, butter, nut butters, nutella, cheese, wine, coffee, beer, meat, and chocolate will come out of your 2 musts. My 2 musts are usually coffee and cheese.  I drink Drews Brews Zappia Family blend religiously.  I enjoy a variety of cheeses, but usually end up buying a Coastal Cheddar, which is one of the cheaper, higher end cheeses.  These 2 musts are not included in the $20.  However, the good news is that there’s a good chance you won’t eat your entire “must” in one week’s time.  So, it’ll roll over into the next week.  
Ok, now down to the nitty gritty of whittling your grocery bill down to $20 a week.  I’ll do a brief overview and will go into depth with a few of these later in this blog.  Ready?
  1. Shop at the international market.  Fruits and veggies are cheaper here than at your neighborhood grocery
  2. Learn how to cook kale, collards, mustard greens, and parsley--not only are they good for you, but they are 2 to 3 times cheaper than other vegetables.
  3. Rice and beans are your friends. Not only are they cheap, but they are good for you and their versatility lends them to a variety of flavors.
  4. try to buy your organic veggies and meat at the Farmer’s Market--it’s cheaper to buy straight from the farmer.
  5. Instead of buying organic, wash fruits and veggies with a clorox wash or a vinegar/hydrogen peroxide spray to get rid of the pesticides
  6. In the fall they sell decorative squash for really cheap--you can eat these.
  7. Eat complete proteins: Rice + beans, meat, eggs, nuts, a protein shake, or quinoa (pronounced ken-wa).
  8. When a vegetable begins to go bad remove it from the fridge immediately.  It will emit a gas that will cause your other veggies to turn.  Cook it, then freeze it if you are not going to eat it right away.
  9. Freeze all leftovers.  Everything can be frozen except for milk, cream, and yogurt.  
  10. If you can’t afford your good fats like avocados, oils, nuts, etc, buy a bag of ground flax seed (You can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder, but it must be ground for your body to absorb the nutrients.  Ground flax seed is about $2-4 p/bag).  Eat 2-4 tablespoons of it each day.  This will give you additional fiber as well as your Omega-3 fatty acids.  
  11. Don’t skip meals.  It’ll only make you eat unnecessarily at the next meal.  A study was conducted in Turkey during Ramadan/Ramazan (a 3 month religious fast done by Muslims, where no water or food is consumed while the sun is up.  Then when the sun goes down they feast).  They found that those who participated in Ramadan bought and consumed 20% MORE food during Ramadan than they did during the rest of the year.  You must not skip meals to save money.  If you starve you’ll only consume more later. (i.e. lose money, gain weight).
  12. If you're up for a little under-cover work you can always ask a Freegan about his or her favorite dumpster.  Though I have done it and don't see much harm in it, I am not endorsing this.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

you can't take the fancy out.

The roof leaked. The window sill was rotting. The floor creaked and caved around the 60 year old heater in the floor. The grass had grown 2 feet tall because I couldn’t afford to put gas into the mower. I sat on my couch, eating my meal du jour, a hot dog and mayonnaise, while I sipped hot water from a Hutschenreuther teacup (Richelieu), signed and numbered “33.” 

Hutschenreuther Richelieu 
Hot dog and Mayonnaise

do these really go together?

Yes, yes, it is true. Fancy moved out of her parents’ house and into a place of her own, carting only her Hutschenreuther and an old silver spoon she got from her mother. It’s a well known fact that the women in my family can pick out the most expensive thing in the room because it’s the first thing to which we’re drawn. We’re fancy girls. We want it all. And really, let’s be reasonable, what’s the point in having cake if you can’t eat it too? 

And yet, amid all of the frill, there’s the survivor, the warrior, the girl who will stop at nothing for freedom and a love to call her own. Though she may have to trudge through the rain, sell her dresses to buy groceries, hold the soles [souls] of her shoes together with duct tape, and wear mud on her shirts because she can’t afford detergent, she will survive. She will make due. She will rise above and conquer. And she’ll look good doing it. 

This, my friends, is why I present you with the fancy girl’s guide to being poor. Because you can take the girl out of the fancy, but you can’t take the fancy out of the girl.