Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Kale: The Queen of Greens

We have a Taco Bell right next to the grocery store.  Every time I buy groceries I can hear it taunting me, "You could just have a burrito for $1.29!  And you don't even have to make it!"  On one hand, it's awesome that I can buy a burrito for less than it would cost me to make it at home.  And on the other hand, it's terrifying that I can buy a burrito for less than it would cost me to make it at home.  What do they put in that stuff, anyway?

With that said, it's hard to be healthy on a budget, especially when fast food is readily available and cheaper than the grocery store.  And yet, I can't help but think that what's helping my pocket book short term could be hurting my body in the long run.  When you look at it that way, a bundle of kale and a bag of nuts is a lot cheaper and a lot more fun than a triple bypass.

Kale, also known as The Queen of Greens, is a powerhouse of nutrition.  Kale ranges anywhere from $0.75-$2.50 per bunch, is plentiful, and easy to find year round.  Kale is rich in vitamins A, C, and K, thus boosting immune function, firming your skin, fighting free radicals,  enhancing reproductive and heart health, and maintaining strong bones, among other glorious benefits.  Now, I'd call that a pretty sexy veggie.

my kale salad

Kale Salad
6 cups raw kale--un-chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup blanched almonds or walnuts
1/4 cup raisins or cranberries
1/2 cup raw basil, un-chopped
dash of salt.
1. In a food processor, chop kale and basil
2. Place kale and basil in a bowl and add parmesan, olive oil, salt, nuts, and raisins/cranberries

Kale Pesto
1 cup kale
1 cup basil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
2 or 3 garlic cloves

Blend all ingredients in the food processor and put on pasta, bread, or veggies.

Carla's Spicy Kale
6 cups of kale
1/2 cup chopped red onions
Butter or Oil
2 garlic cloves
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup water

1. Satee butter, onions, and garlic
2. After the onions begin to brown, add kale
3. pour in liquid.
4. Stir over heat until kale is barely wilted (it will continue to cook after you take it off the heat)
5. Serve over beans, rice, or just eat it by itself.

Garlic Kale
Place your fat of choice and 3 garlic cloves in the skillet.  Add a dash of salt.  Cook until the garlic begins to turn brown.  Add kale and cook until kale leaves barely begin to darken.

If you have any good kale recipes please share!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

When life hands you old lemons, make Lemoncello

When life hands you lemons make lemonade; when life hands you old lemons make Lemoncello.  As our great-grandmothers always said, "waste not, want not."  Just because your fruit is aging doesn't mean it's time to throw it out.  In fact, these recipes work better if your fruit is already on the mature side.

"But I think it's a little different in Europe, because 40 is really the best age for a woman. That's when we hit our peak and become this ripe fruit."

--Juliette Binoche

1 750 ml bottle of vodka or everclear
15 old zested lemons
3 cups cain sugar
4 cups tap or distilled water

my baby batch of lemoncello
1. zest or skin the lemons and allow the zest to sit in the vodka or everclear for a week
2. Make a syrup out of the sugar and water by combining and allowing them to boil for 15 minutes.  Do not stir this.  Allow to cool to room temp.
3. Stir vodka mixture into syrup and allow to sit for a day.
4. strain, chill, and serve.
Click here for lemoncello cocktails

(And if you don't want to drink the juice from the lemons you can always make furniture polish)

Watermelon, Tomato, Peach, or Pineapple Salsa
2 cups fleshy fruit of choice
1 cup cilantro
3/4 cups red onion
1/4 cup lime juice
(if you use tomatoes add a dash of sugar.  The sugar in the other fruits will be sufficient)
4 jalepenos, deseeded and chopped.
my watermelon salsa

Mix ingredients and allow to sit overnight.  I put mine on fish tacos--yuuuh!!  You can also change the flavor by adding alternative herbs like mint or basil.

3. Berry, Apple, or Peach Crisp 
(sorry!  No photos for this one.)
3 cups fruit, peeled and cut
1 cup brown sugar
a dash of salt
4 pats of butter
2 T flour
1 T cinnamon


  1. 1 cup flour
  2. 1/2 cup white sugar
  3. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  4. 1 cup cold butter
  5. 1 T cinnamon
  6. 1. Mix fruit, sugar, salt, butter, flour, and cinnamon.
  7. 2. in a food processor process crust ingredients until it is crumbly
  8. 3. top fruit mixture with crumbles and bake on 350 for about 30 minutes.

Banana Bread
3 bananas, mashed
1.5 cups brown sugar
1 T water or milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup butter or oil--pick your poison (if you'd like to leave this out entirely, you can still achieve a moist loaf by decreasing a bit of flour)
3 eggs
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
walnuts (optional)

Perfect for afternoon tea with a friend.

1. Mash bananas and sugar with a potato masher or fork
2. add wet ingredients and mix
3. Add dry ingredients and mix
4 sprinkle with brown sugar or crisp crumbles and bake on 340 for about 30-40 minutes

Aunt Beth's Fruit Jam
This one is straight from the kitchen of Aunt Beth

7 cups of fruit puree (or fruit of choice)
8 cups sugar
2 T butter
2 packets of Certo fruit pectin

1. To make the puree, heat the fruit, then mash them through a sieve.  If you like the seeds or want your jam to be chunky you may skip this part.
2. Bring the puree to a boil, then slowly add the sugar.
3. Bring the sugar and fruit to a boil.  As it begins to rise, remove it from the heat and drop in a "pat" of butter (we determined that a "pat" is about 2 tablespoons of butter). 
4. Lastly, add your packets of Certo fruit pectin.
5. Can your jam and spread on toast!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lighter Hair and Whiter Whites--a few ways to use the sun this summer

Blonder hair, bronzer skin, and whiter whites?  
Many of us have been incorporating the sun into our beauty regime since we were in Jr. High--lemon juice on our hair to make it blonde while we baked for hours to achieve the perfect bronze.  But did you know that you can use the sun to clean your clothes? And standing in the sun for 15 minutes is more effective than taking vitamin D supplements?  Did you know you can elevate your mood AND make your white's whiter simply by taking a step into the sun?  As temperatures creep into the triple digits this week and you're stuck inside, sipping cold iced tea and working on your blog/inside-project-of-choice, why not let the sun do a little of the extra work for you?

1. Brighten your Whites.
my sun tea
The sun emits ultraviolet rays which have the ability to break down organic stains on fabric (note, the sun will not be effective on inorganic stains such as paint, ink, some food stains etc).    The sun does this by breaking apart the molecular structure on a stain, which, in turn, changes the way light is reflected on the fabric (Heida).   Be careful when putting your colors in the sun as well--it'll bleach those too.

2. Disinfect and Freshen your linens 
In addition to bleaching your fabrics, the sun's ultra violet rays can also disinfect and freshen your linens.  That's right, put your stinky, musty, and mildewed items in the sun and let 'em bake.

3. Make sun tea.
So, I grew up drinking this stuff and have never become ill from sun tea.  Apparently, if you don't make sun tea the correct way it can grow bacteria which is harmful, so proceed cautiously.  In a large glass jar, place sprigs of mint leaves, lemons, sugar or honey, and black tea (make sure the tea is caffeinated, as the caffeine will help stave off bacteria that may grow in luke-warm water).  Let it sit in the sun for 3-4 hours.

4. Soak up some D's.  
Step outside for at least 15 minutes to get your daily dose of vitamin D.  A healthy dose of vitamin D will not only reduce your chances of developing certain diseases, but it will also put you into a better mood and help regulate your immune system.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Unique Gift Giving on a Budget

“The good guest is almost invisible, enjoying him- or herself, communing with fellow guests, and, most of all, enjoying the generous hospitality of the hosts.”--Emily Post

When in doubt, ask Emily.  It is an honour to see a bride and groom, who are well suited for each other, pledge their lives to one another.  As a guest, I am there to say that I believe in what they are doing, that I am a witness to the goodness of this day, and that I will help in whatever way I am able.  With that said, I can't tell you how many weddings I have decided not to attend simply because I could not afford a gift.

Though it is no longer customary to give a gift that equals the amount the bride's parents will spend on you as a guest at the wedding, it is still customary to bring a gift (Thank you, Peggy Post for amending that rule of your mother's).  If you are able, by all means, stick to the registry.  However, just because you don't have a lot of money or you spent all of your gift money on traveling to the wedding, doesn't mean you can't give the bride and groom something lovely.   

The difference between spending a lot of money and looking like you spent a lot of money is creativity.  Thankfully, for those of us who don't have a lot of money to spend, our favorite stores like Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware have taken things which are beautiful and simple and have made them elegant and luxurious.  

Following are 4 beautiful and simple gifts, which will cost less than $10.  

1. Vintage Tea Linens
Find old hankies at antique stores, flea markets, and ebay.  I bought these for $1 each at The Madison Flea, which is an antique store with flea market prices.  Compare these to Anthropologie's Chit and Chat napkins, which are $8 each.  Add a personal touch with a recipe for English Scones.  If you still have a little left over cash in your budget, a nice additive to this gift would be Emily Post's book on Entertaining, which you can buy used on Amazon for 1 cent--or new for $20.

2. Vintage Apron
If you buy actual vintage aprons they'll run between $3 and $12 (compare that to Anthropologie's aprons, which look like vintage aprons and cost between $30 and $40).  I found this apron at The Madison Flea for $5 and paired it with this sweet yellow spatula.  For a personal touch I included a few of my favorite recipes.  Should you have a little more cash left over in your gift budget you can pair this gift with Bought, Borrowed, Stolen by Allegra McEvedyMastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, or The Fanny Farmer Cookbook by Fanny Farmer

3. A Framed Invitation
 If you're going to the wedding I'm guessing you got the invitation.  Find a lovely old frame.  I bought this vintage metal frame at Music City Thrift for $2.  Choose a complimentary fabric or paper and use it as the background.  I used this lovely old hankie I purchased at Madison Flea for $1.

4. A Jar full of Knobs
Ignore the name and just walk in--Hobby Lobby has an aisle full of cool knobs, all priced from $1.50-$6.00 (compared to Anthropologies knobs, which run $6-$12 each).  This is a collection of 12 porcelain knobs in a Ball Canning jar.  I bought them for $1.50 each (ok, ok, if you buy 12 then it's going to be $20 instead of $10.  So, just buy 6 if you need it to stay under $10).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Habit of Happy: drink specials around Nashville

Happy hour is a state of mind.  Let's forget the happy and talk about schedules.  Our internal clock usually tells us to drink and be merry between the hours of 7 and 10 pm.  However, if we can learn to appreciate alternate hours of merriment we can easily transform a $50 tab into a $20 tab.  Following is a list of my favorite and frequented happy hours (and remember: tip your server on the value, not the price).

Holland House: Monday-Sat 5-7 pm and Monday through Wednesday10pm-2am, all day Thurs (yeah-ya!). $5 cocktails off of their happy hour menu.  I always get the Weller Manhattan.  

Eastland Cafe: Monday-Thurs 5-6:30; Friday and Saturday 5-6.
$5 appetizers; $5 cocktails; $3 beers.  I always order the pizza and the Downtown Jim.

Whiskey Kitchen: Tuesday: 2 for 1 4-10 pm.  I always get their Old Fashioned.  Also, between now and Christmas if you buy a $50 gift card you get 30% off.  The catch is you have to wait a day before you use the gift card.  

Rumours East Wine Bar:  Wednesday 5-6 $5 select wines and $5 paninis

3 Crow: Wednesday and Sunday: 2 for 1

Crows Nest 1/2 priced drinks Mon-Fri 2-7 pm

Coopers on Porter: Tues-Sat 4-7pm; $5 appetizers, $3 beer, $4 wine (their burger is one of the best burgers I've ever had)

Mafioza's: Tuesday: 2 for 1 beer; 2 for 1 pizza

Urban Flats Wine Down Wednesday: for $20 you get 8 half glasses of wine and appetizers

Sunset Grill: Tues-Fri 11-4:30: 1/2 priced well drinks and wines by the glass; Thurs: Girls' Night Out $5 Stoli Martinis, $5 apps, $5 wines--I've never done this with a boy, so I am not entirely sure if this is applicable to men, but it's worth a try.  Also, I'm somewhat passionate about their late-night nachos.

Anyway, these are just my favorites.  Please share your Happy Hour favorite below if I missed a really good one.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Our $20 dinner party, part 2: Making Your Table Lovely for $5

So, while I was busy cooking in the kitchen for our $20 dinner party, Lindsey arrived with her "tool-box" (that is, a giant container full of supplies--sort of like a first aid kit for her events)  She whipped out scissors, a vintage sheet, and an old, plastic hula skit and got to work.

I'll let her tell you the rest.

A Lovely $5 Table
by Lindsey Huddleston

Candelabra: $1.09 at Goodwill
Vintage Sheet: $0.70 at the Goodwill Outlet.
Yellow placemat and green hula skirt: $0.76 at The Goodwill Outlet.
Oranges: $1.99
Candles: (ok--I cheat--I already had them.  But Trader Joes, Wal Mart, and The Goodwill often have good deals on candles)

This was a unique project because the budget was so small! Of the entire $20, we allotted just $5 to decor.

It was a challenge to be aware of inventory that I have  at my house due to my line of work that others may not have lying about.  However, I am going to assume that you have plates, cups, silverware, pitchers, a music player, and lamps.
The first thing I did once I arrived at Crystal's house was prepare the table.  I cut a vintage sheet to fit the table.  The sheet was the first thing we found.  When working with a tiny budget, you must find a few things that inspire you and build around them.  In this case the inspiration was our 70's sheet.  

Whenever I dress a table I stick to 2 easy rules of design: create a focal point on the table and have clusters of odd-numbered objects.  While at the Goodwill I found a 5-point candelabra from the 70's, which met both needs.

We found a yellow placemat at the goodwill, which I placed in the middle of the table.  At first it was a bit much because there was a lot of the same color in the middle of a smallish table and the yellow looked weird with the gold candelabra, so using some spare fabric from the tablecloth I made a new middle for the placemat.  When you're on a budget you just have to go with it and keep adding and subtracting until you get it right.

We had quite a bit of extra fabric from the cutting the sheet to fit the table.  I used extra fabric to create napkins and a swag to the decanters.  I rolled the silverware inside my napkins and then tied with the green ribbon/hula skirt.

Following is the method I use to roll silverware:
1.Arrange your napkin in a diamond shape. Place your silverware in the center.
2. Lift the bottom corner to the center or as close as you can.
3. Pull the top corner down to center or as close as you can.
4. Pull the left corner all the way over to meet the right corner, hold the silverware in
place at the same time. Line up the corners as best as you can.

5. This will look like an arrow with a flat edge on the left, top and bottom with the
point on the right.
6. Hold the left flat edge and roll inwards towards the right.
7 Continue rolling until you have a tube of silverware.
8. Tie or accessorize as you please.

Instead of putting flowers on the table, I bought a bushel of oranges at Aldi for $1.99.  We used these to garnish drinks, decorate the table, and make the room smell nice.  The oranges looked lovely and also served as something our guests could munch on while waiting for dinner to be served.

The table was set and everything looked wonderful.  The next order was to set the mood.  I turned off all of Crystal's overhead lighting.  We collected lamps from the rest of her house and used those to light the room, giving it a calm and yellow glow.

I used my personal library in my ipod, pressed play, and fun was had by all.  

So, in conclusion for your $20 dinner party:
  • Buy fabric cheaply in bulk and use it for different purposes.
  • Remember, fruit is edible art.
  • Don’t be a stickler about color scheme -- use what you have.
  • Use the strengths of what you already own. Have blue vintage glassware from your grandmother, but only two pieces? Mix and match or use for flowers, candles, small fruits or plants.
  • Decide what your priorities are and put as much of your budget there as you can.
  • Lighting is just as important, if not more, as music. Choose well and intentionally.

You may or may not have met Lindsey Huddleston, but
if you live in Nashville you've probably been to one of
her events.  From her Black and White Party at Mercy Lounge,
to Geek Prom, to the most recent Nashville Burlesque show,
this little lady has really made a name for  herself among
Nashville event planners.  In addition to amazing parties,
Lindsey also plans alternative weddings with her company
DandyLion events. I guess you could say she was your
so-called wedding planner.
photography by John Yates

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Our $20 Dinner Party, part 1

Harvest Happy.

The Menu:
Roasted Acorn Squash
Curried Sweet Potatoes
Beet Greens
Bread Pudding for dessert

The Southern Way:
Close your eyes, count to 3, and pretend boxed wine never happened.

The Grocery List (all store brands):
4 acorn squash
5 sweet potatoes
3 beets with the greens
cheap white bread
1  pint of milk
a carton of 6 eggs
brown sugar
bargain cinnamon and curry
1 lb. butter
1 small onion
1 box of dirt cheap wine

Back in February, alternative event planning guru, Lindsey Huddleston, and I decided we were going to throw a $20 dinner party.  After 2 weeks of scavenging and planning we did it and are here to report back.  Following is what we did for the food and drink.  Stay tuned for another post on decor and mood-setting by Lindsey.

and fun was had by all.
Since we had given ourselves a budget of $20 for 8 people we knew we had to leave out the meat.  Instead of filling our plates with starches, we decided to go harvest happy and fill our plates with colorful vegetables.

We asked the wine store if they had any cheap, closeout wines.  As it turns out, they had a $14 box of wine that was marked down to $6.  The man at the wine store explained that this wine was so cheap because they were no longer carrying that wine with that particular label and were liquidating the boxes merely because they had the old label.  Should you find yourself too fancy for box wine you'll need to take the Southern approach for your $20 dinner party: close your eyes, count to 3, and pretend that boxed wine never happened.  Once it's in your crystal decanter you can pretend it was a bottle from the cellar of the Queen.

Following are instructions for our dinner.  I didn't measure anything, but I didn't think it necessary.

Check back soon.  Lindsey is going to tell us a bit about how to make your dinner area inviting and lovely, using things found around your house or local thrift store.

Roasted Acorn Squash
turn oven up to 400.  Place squash in the oven and allow to bake until finished (about 30 minutes).  Allow to cool, cut in 1/2, and scrape out the seeds.  20 minutes before serving, turn oven on to 250, put 1 teaspoon of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar into the cavity and allow to bake until it reaches your desired serving temperature.

Curried Sweet Potatoes
Chop the sweet potatoes into 1 x 1 cubes.  Chop up your small onion and place it in casserole dish with the potatoes.  sprinkle with cinnamon, curry, and salt and mix, making sure the seasoning is equally distributed.  Dot the top of the mixture generously with butter.  Allow to bake on 400 until soft.  Add raisins.  Heat with Acorn Squash before serving.

Cut the beets from the greens and boil until soft.  Once beets are finished, drop in greens and allow to cook.  Slice beets and drizzle with a mixture of butter, salt, and brown sugar.

Bread Pudding
Cut the crust off of the bread, then cut into cubes and place in your casserole dish.  Add raisins to bread cubes.  Make a mixture of your milk, 5 eggs, 1/2 c. brown sugar and any other flavors you'd like to add.  I had some dark rum in the cupboard, so I mixed rum with mine.  Dot the top generously with butter and bake on 350.

Lindsey Huddleston: www.dandylionevents.com
Photography by John Yates www.jxcreative.com

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Asked For It! Aunt Beth's Blackberry Jam Recipe!!

Aunt Beth, being fancy and awesome in the 70's
You guys asked for it and here it is: Aunt Beth's homemade jam recipe.  I found out it is actually my Deedee's homemade jam recipe, which, as it turns out, is actually my Grand-Deedee's homemade jam recipe.  What I'm saying is this thing is 3 generations good. 

When I asked Aunt Beth how to make the jam her response was, "Just mix your fruit, sugar, and butter together, then boil and add pectin."  I asked her how much of each and she replied, "A lot."  So, here is the recipe (we think) for a  giant batch of blackberry wedding jam.

You'll need:
7 cups of Blackberry puree (or fruit of choice)
8 cups sugar
2 T butter
2 packets of Certo fruit pectin

1. To make the puree, heat the blackberries, then mash them through a sieve.  If you like the seeds you may skip this part.

2. Bring the blackberry puree to a boil, then slowly add the sugar.

3. Bring the sugar and berries to a boil.  As it begins to rise, remove it from the heat and drop in a "pat" of butter (we determined that a "pat" is about 2 tablespoons of butter). 

4. Lastly, add your packets of Certo fruit pectin.

5. Can your jam.  Watch this video for effective canning: click here

Everyone, repeat after me, "Thank you, Aunt Beth!!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cooking with Road Berries and Flowers

Obviously, she's fancy.  Ladies, repeat after me, "Of course I can."
I come from an amazing family of women.  My Mom, Grandmother, and Aunts are my heros.  Naturally, when Brandon and I got married, they all came together, throwing us the most beautiful wedding I've ever been to.  I'd like to say I could take credit for that day, but all I did was say "I do."  For our gifts to our guests, my Aunt Beth made blackberry jam from berries she had picked on the side of the road at my grandparent's house.  Maybe it was the fresh berries, maybe it was just the Aunt Beth touch, but it was the best jam I've ever had.  Often in the morning I find myself dreaming about her glorious jam, wishing I still had a jar.

Following are a few recipes you can make with road berries and flowers.  Please don't eat flowers and berries you aren't certain are edible, as some can be deadly (those of you who saw Hunger Games  know exactly what I'm talking about).  Should you eat things from your yard and feel strange afterward, please go to the hospital.

1. Honeysuckle Sorbet
I came across this recipe on the NPR site [Noah Adams].

4 cups of honeysuckle blossoms
1 2/3 cups water (for those of us in TN, better use bottled water--our water tastes gross)
2 cups of sugar
1/2 t lemon juice

1. Soak the honeysuckle overnight to get rid of any thing living on them.
2. Pour the honeysuckles and water into a sauce pan and add the sugar.  After the mixture is clear, allow to boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.
3. Strain honeysuckle through a sieve and add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
4. Take a spoon and press all of the juices, honey, and flower flavors out of your flowers to maximize the flower flavor.
5. freeze it, stirring occasionally if you're able.
6. break up your honeysuckle ice and blend in the blender or food processor before serving.

2. Sugared Violets
Eat sugared violets by themselves or use them to garnish your delectable spring desserts.

1. Wash your flowers and allow them to dry completely
2. Spread 1/2 cup of caster sugar on a plate (for the really poor fancy girl, you can take regular sugar and give it a few spins in your food processor to make it fine).
3. spread egg white onto the petals and dip into the sugar
4. place on wax paper, which also has sugar sprinkled onto it for easy removal

3. Muleberry Pie
3 cups of muleberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 t salt
2 T butter
1/4 c. flour
double pastry crust

1.Mix berries, sugar, salt, and flower and place into dish with piecrust
2. dot with butter
3. cover with piecrust and seal
4. Place pie in over and preheat to 400.  Once oven reaches 400 turn down to 340 and bake for 15 min or until the crust is slightly golden.
5. allow to cool on your window-sill like they do in the movies

4. Blackberry Ginger Glaze
Ok, so I'm cheating on this one--I haven't made this yet.  But I'm going to.  Here's the link for Baked Salmon with a Blackberry Ginger Glaze

Thursday, April 12, 2012

iPhone, youPhone: 6 ways to Smart-Phone

Amelita Galli-Curci on her smart phone
I feel silly admitting this, but my iPhone changed my life.  It's like the personal assistant I've never been able to afford.  From calendars, to everything-trackers, to coupons, to reminders, to books, to the sounds I wake up to in the morning, my iPhone does it all.

With a fancy phone, fancy case (OtterBox Defender--you can barely even tell there's an iPhone in there), and fancy phone plan, I've made a commitment to making my iPhone work for me since I have worked so hard to have it.

Following are a few free apps which have saved me a lovely amount of money and have made the larger phone payment worth it's weight in dollars.

Scout Mob
Scout Mob offers the same outrageous discounts that Groupon does, only you don't have to purchase the Scout Mob up front.  You merely show up, enjoy the offered goodies, and, upon check out, reveal your Scout Mob.  Scout Mob's target demographic is a little more narrow than Groupon's as well, which means they feature a lot of local eateries and boutiques as opposed to items that look as if they belong on an infomercial (Sorry, Groupon).

Shop Savvy
Shop Savvy is a sweet little app that can help you find the best deal on your groceries.  Simply scan the barcode with your camera.  This app will bring up the item in every store within your area, telling you the price and how far away the store is.  So far I've found Shop Savvy to be about 90% accurate.  This app is especially useful when purchasing large quantities of one item.

Drink Owl
I appreciate a good happy hour.  Drink Owl is a sweet little happy hour tracker.  Complete with map, you don't even need to search for the location of the restaurant because it is all wrapped up into one little app.  $5 drink and a $5 pizza?  I'm cool with that.

Push Pins
Let your iPhone coupon clip for you.  Simply scan the barcode of the items in your shopping cart with your iPhone camera and Push Pins will bring up all of the online coupons pertaining to that item.  Upon checkout you can show them to the cashier.

I Love Free Things
I love free things!  This app just keeps giving and giving.  I Love Free Things will stay abreast of the newest samplings and free offers and tell you how to get them.

Gas Buddy
Now, driving across town to get cheaper gas is counter-productive.  However, if I can drive 2 more blocks and find cheaper gas, then by all means, I'll drive 2 blocks to save a buck.  In addition, Gas Buddy awards a $250 gift certificate for gas to one person every week.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Hem me in: what alcohol and shorter pants have in common this Easter weekend

I'm a light-weight.  I hate getting drunk, but if you give me a drink it's inevitable.  One drink and I don't drive, two drinks and you'll know my life story, three drinks and I'm gone, incoherent, and have shared the most intimate and not-so-secret-anymore details of my life.  I really know I've stepped over the line when my loving husband stands up, takes me by my shoulders and says, "We're getting up, don't say anything."  When he says this, my first inclination is to say everything.  But since I never go past drink 3 I still have a few inhibitions about me and bite my lip, even though my tongue is ready to tell all of Holland House my secrets.  Though I wish I could say I am just a funny drunk, I think I'm more of an uncomfortable one.  (Mom, if you're reading this, when I refer to myself as a drunk, to what I'm really referring are the 5 times I've been drinky this year.  "Drinky" is a state and an adjective, whereas "Drunk" is a lifestyle decision.  I merely chose drunk for hyperbolic reasons).

No one in my extended family drinks alcohol or eats pork.  It's a religious and health decision, which I respect, but do not observe.  Naturally, my 3 drinks a week make me feel like a rebel, going where few dare go in my family.  And what I really mean is that I feel slightly guilty for my 3 drinks a week and if I ate pork, too, I am sure the guilt over such decisions might engulf me.  If you ask me, I chose the more fun of the evils.  Somebody, hem me in!

When I entitled this blog "Hem me in," the only thing I could think to write about was alcohol.  And unless you want to liken cutting out the unnecessary length on your pants to getting rid of the sin in your life, making life "fit" the way it should, I don't think pants and alcohol have that much in common (however, it is highly recommended that you wear them while drinking).  But I'm going to take this moment, on this Easter weekend, to say that I was saved by grace, that no amount of Manhattans or Sazeracs can separate me from the love of Jesus Christ.  I'd like to say that salvation is a gift from God and that Jesus on the cross was sufficient for my salvation--He appeased the wrath of God, a wrath that I cannot appease without Him.  Imperfect as they may be, I guess you could say my pants fit afterall.

However, if your pants are still a bit too long and you don't want to wear nine inch heels to keep them from dragging on the ground or pay $20 to have them altered, we have an easy remedy: hemming them at home.

Following are 6 easy steps to shorter pants:

Step 1: try on your pants and roll them up to your desired length.  Mark the length with a pen or chalk

Step 2: begin cutting 1.5 inches below your mark.

Step 3: cut off the bottom hem of your pants.

Step 4: line up the inseam on your pants and the hem you just cut off.  You may hold the pieces in place with pens.  

Step 5: sew along the existing hem with thread the color of your jeans.  After you have attached the bottom hem to your pants, pull on the new hem until you see the original stitching.

Step 6: Iron and lightly starch your hem.
 Have a lovely time in your properly proportioned pants--get drinky, not drunk. Drive/don't drive responsibly.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Mean Reds Never Looked So Good

The most expensive dresses I own are the ones I never wear.

Coco Chanel's "Ford" dress
Brandon and I attended a cocktail party at a swanky club last night.  My grand dilemma?  I hadn't purchased a cocktail dress since 2007.  And now it's 2011.  And even though my dress wasn't that outdated, the hemline was all wrong.  Then I remembered a story I had heard my grandmother tell.  The year was 1937.  The United States was just climbing out of the great depression when another recession happened.  That was the same year my grandmother had one of her major recitals (she was a classical Soprano).  My great grandmother was faced with an important night and nothing to wear.  So what did she do?  She found her old velvet dress that, by this time, was worn in the places dresses tend to wear on women.  She took it apart, turned the material inside out, adjusted the sleeves to the fashions of 1937 and put it back together. Then she attended her daughter's recital as a prim, proper, and stylish lady.  No one had the slightest idea that she was wearing her dress inside out.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel introduced her "Ford" line of simple, black dresses to Vogue in the 1920's.  Before the 1920's black was reserved for women in mourning.  After the 1920's black was for the tasteful, sensual woman.  And, luckily, for those of us who attend a cocktail party every 2 years, the little black dress maintains it's shape, while the hemline and sleeves go up and down, out and back in.

So, instead of buying a new little black dress every 2 years so you can wear it once, consider taking your old little black dress to your tailor and having her lift the hemline, cut off the sleeves, and adjust the waist.  Look at it this way: Would you rather pay $20 or $200?




Yes, the dress was really
lovely when you guys
walked down the aisle
of Kim's wedding.  But,
really,  what are you going
to do with this giant dress?
Simple. Cut it off.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

So I Married a Cat

Hey, guys!  My internet has been down for an entire month.  So sorry about no posts.

I hated cats until my 25th birthday.  They’re coy, demeaning, and self proclaimed secret emperors.  Their attitude is rotten and they play games until they get what they want--much like the girls in 8th grade.  For all of these reasons and more, I loathed them.
Then one halloween night in 2008, while dressed as a Christmas tree, I met a furry man, who informed me that he came to the halloween party dressed as himself--as a cat.  “Oh really?”  I said, “So you’re telling me you are actually a cat.”  And he said yes.  And I said, “Then in that case, I am flower because I need sunshine, water, and coffee or I die.”  And he told me it wasn’t the same thing--that he was actually a cat.  My feet started to turn toward the punch bowl, but his eyes were so kind and his large beard was so intriguing that I stayed and talked for a while.  By my 25th birthday, 4 months later, I had made peace with cats.  The cat-man and I married on October 16th, 2010, nearly 2 years after we had met.  The following halloween I was an elf and he was a cat--again--this time with a mask, whiskers, and vintage swim trunks.      
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that God and the universe punished me for hating cats by making me fall in love with a cat [lover].  Rather, I believe that loving and marrying the cat man was an invitation to enjoy all of creation.  I have now adopted a cat named Baxter Hood Morgan, on whom Brandon and I dote lavishly.  We buy him beds and wet food and funny toys and cat nip and oat greens, which make him go crazy, and many other things, actually.  We comment on new behaviors of his and laugh every time he tries to jump onto the chair, somehow misses, and slams into the wall.  He only misses because he’s lazy, which is why it’s funny.
Not only can loving animals be expensive, but it can make them fat.  Baxter had slept on Brandon’s chest since he was a kitten (since Baxter was a kitten, that is).  When Brandon and I got married I, Baxter’s Mommie Dearest, banned him from the bedroom due to a cat allergy.  He was not happy.  For the first month we were married Brandon and I didn’t sleep because Baxter was yelling at the door all night (among other things like running and slamming his body into the door, scratching the walls, and sticking his snout under the door to yell, just incase we hadn’t heard him before).  I couldn’t believe he still had a voice by the next morning.  Then we discovered wet food.  We found that if we fed Baxter wet food, turned off all of the lights in the house, and ran into the bedroom, that he would eat the food, whine for 1 minute, then pass out for the rest of the night.  They say that you’ll gain 15 pounds after getting married--sort of like your freshman 15 all over again.  I think Baxter took 2 for the team.  Though Brandon and I didn’t gain any weight, Baxter earned the name ‘Baxter the Hut.’  Something had to be done about our large mass of a cat.  
How do we keep him thin, keep our wallets full, and still sleep every night?  A friend gave us the magic answer.  She suggested feeding him pumpkin.  Not only is pumpkin cheap and good for the feline digestive system, but Baxter loves this stuff.  Every week we mix 1 can of pumpkin with 2 cans of wet food.  We stick it in a container in the fridge and feed him a couple tablespoons every night.  It’s the cheapest sleep we’ve had a long time--believe me.  And Baxter has returned to a manageable weight (note, this is a treat for him.  We still feed him dry food as well.  I am not sure how nutritious pumpkin is--I wouldn’t suggest feeding your cat just pumpkin).  
Following are a list of things we have done for Baxter, which have also helped our budget/his unlikeness to Jaba:
  1. Pumpkin and wet food concoction for a happy cat and well rested owners.  Note, if you don’t put the amount of desired wet food your cat personally prefers, there will be war.  
  2. Dawn dishwashing soap is just as effective as flea shampoo and has fewer chemicals.
  3. Instead of lying on the nice $30 bed Brandon and I bought for Baxter at Target, he has chosen the lay on the $3 bag of tidy cat litter.  So, we bought him a bag of litter, put it in a pretty pillow case we found at the Goodwill Outlet, and he’s a happy cat.
  4. Catnip is a member of the mint family, so we are growing our own since it’s so easy to grow.  This is much cheaper than buying it at the store.  Just put the seeds in the ground.  Trust me, it’ll grow.
  5. Baxter loves oat greens.  Buy oat seeds from your hardware store instead of Petsmart.  
Do you have any cheap cat tricks?  Better yet, has anyone been able to teach his cat any tricks?  Tell me.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The $20 makeover

Haircut: $11 Eyebrow wax: $7.  a cup of coffee: $2. A day at the beauty school? Priceless.

I can't afford $70 to get my hair done.  As a consequence, I've cut my own hair for years.  Sometimes it's cute, sometimes it's awful.  You never know what you're going to get when you're cutting the back of your hair with a straight razor and have no idea what it looks like.  Then my life changed.  My friend, Amanda, started beauty school.  At first I went to be supportive.  Then I found out that she's good!!

I know.  You think that sounds scary.  But look at it this way: everyone's got to start somewhere.  And either you have it or you don't.  So, the key is to have your hair cut by someone who has it, who is just starting out.

Amanda Rogers, getting ready to chop off my mullet at The Salon Professional Academy.
If you don't know anyone personally at the beauty school, make an appointment for a pedicure.  Think of this as your undercover trip, an investment in the future of you hair.  Let's be honest, you can live with a bad pedicure, but the mop that frames your face had better be lovely.  While you're getting your pedicure, ask your nail girl who gives the cutest cuts and look at the students' hair.  When you find the student with cute hair ask him/her who cut it--chances are it was another student.  When they tell you, make an appointment.  Done.  You have your stylist.

Next stop: massage school.

Below is the menu for The Salon Professional Academy (www.nashvillebeautyschool.com).

  • Haircut                               $9
  • Child’s Cut (12 and under)$5
  • Bang or Beard Trim       $7
  • Shampoo & Style              $6
  • Special Occasion Updo$19
  • Conditioning Service   $6
  • Color & Style                   $19
  • Highlights                        $29
  • Perm                                $39
  • Relaxer                           $39


  • Facial                              $19
  • Facial with Makeup     $19
  • Makeup Application      $9
  • Facial Wax                       $9


  • Manicure                         $9
  • French Manicure         $14
  • Pedicure                        $19
  • Polish Change              $5
  • Paraffin Dip                     $7
  • Nail Art                            $4