Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The 90's are Over; Let's Eat Sweet Potatoes.

and if you're really enthusiastic about your sweet
potatoes you can buy this print here
First of all, I would like to give a giant thank you Colleen Wandel, owner of Say Ooh, for giving this fancy girl's blog a make-over. In addition to giving this blog a new face, this lovely lady also makes beautiful "pretty-enhancers" made from vintage lace, nightgowns, buttons, and feathers.  Be sure to stop by her shop and delight your fancy.

So, now that we've gone to Colleen's shop and browsed her pretty-enhancers, I am going to talk about a pretty-enhancer that you can eat.  Sweet potatoes.  When the 90's told us to stop eating potatoes, many of us lumped sweet potatoes into the same category and cut them out of our diets, only bringing them to the table on Thanksgiving.  Well, I'm here to tell you that we needn't pay heed to the 90's any longer.  Keep Weezer in your hearts and discard the rest--no more peace signs, no more giant cell phones, and no more strange diet fads that tell you not to eat sweet potatoes.  Not only are sweet potatoes good for you, make you look good, and taste so yummy, but they're only $0.69 per pound, which means we can afford them.

According to Alexander Page at Stuff You Should Know, one sweet potato can give you 40% of your daily intake of vitamin E.  Vitamin E both repairs and protects your skin.  Alexander Page says it so nicely that I'm just going to give you his explanation:

"Antioxidants are agents that neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals, which are molecules that damage collagen and cause skin dryness, fine lines and wrinkles [source: Bouchez]. A simple chemistry lesson can explain how vitamin E does this. The atoms that comprise your body try to maintain an even number of electrons -- that's what makes them stable. If an atom has an uneven number of electrons, it will steal an electron from another atom to become stable. When your skin takes a beating from outside factors, such as the sun's ultraviolet rays, your body can produce free radicals. Free radicals are atoms with an uneven number of electrons, and when they form inside your body, they steal electrons from healthy cells like the ones that make up your skin. This can cause a damaging chain reaction, and that's where antioxidants like vitamin E come in [source: Rice]." [Alexander Page, Stuff You Should Know].

So, what I'm saying is that those of us who can't afford La Prairie's $1500 skin care line just need to go ahead and fork out 69 cents on a pound of sweet potatoes.

In addition to repairing your skin, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotine and vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

I usually just bake my sweet potatoes, then dress them with some butter and cinnamon (preheat oven to 400 F, wrap your potatoes in foil, poke a few holes in them with a fork, and bake for about 40 min).  However, if we're feeling fancy, there are a few ways we can dress our potatoes for a meal worth talking about.

Following are 10 fancy and tasty sweet potato recipes:

1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans and Chili Dressing
2. Curried Sweet Potatoes
3. Sweet Potato Casserole
4. Scalloped Sweet Potato Stacks
5. Sweet Potato Mash
6. Sweet Potato Dauphinoise
7. Jamaican Sweet Potato Pone
8. Cuban Sweet Potato Salad
9. Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup
10. Baked Sweet Potato Falafel 

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Cup 1/2 Full of Bargains (OR) A Cup 1/2 Empty with Bargains: my favorite liquidation stores in Nashville

"Don't hate me because I'm a brooksy biscuit!
This urban set is the cat's pajamas! But I'm no
 kluck because I gander in orchids at UAL!"

Whenever I go shopping, the ensuing conversation with my husband goes something like this,

Me: I found the best deals today!

Brandon: Oh?

Me: I saved us so much money!

Brandon: No, I don't think you saved us any money.

Me: Yes I did.  

Brandon: No you didn't.

Me: Yes I did.

Brandon: No you didn't.  How did you save money when you spent it?

Me: Because I bought things we needed at 30% of the retail price, which means I saved us money.

Brandon: Spent money.

Me: I'm sorry your cup is half full.

Maybe we're spending money, maybe we're saving money.   I'll let you decide that for yourself.  However, whether your bargain bin is 1/2 full or 1/2 empty, you're sure to find something that delights at these great bargain stores.   

To those of you who live far from Nashville, I am sorry.  This is another Nashville-centric post.  However, it might just be another reason to put Nashville down on your list of vacation spots.

1. Essex on Nolensville
This place is amazing.  The other day I bought a Cuisinart coffee machine, a kitchen-aid food processor, a Culligan under-the-sink water filter, a memory foam overlay for my bed, and a cute grey t-shirt (I couldn't help it--I'm addicted to grey t-shirts) all for $90.  When looking for new appliances, bedding, electronics, or things for your baby (3 aisles full of baby things), Essex is where you want to go.  Essex is a liquidation store, which features slightly defective, overstock, and closeout items.  Before purchasing, make sure you open the box and check out your appliance, as some appliances are there because of defects.  

2. UAL (United Apparel Liquidators) on West End
Tired of your Michael Kors knock-off?  Why don't you get a real one?  Not possible you say?  Well, you simply haven't been to UAL.  UAL is a wonderland for those of us who love pretty things, but can't afford them.  You may not need a Rebecca Taylor dress for your birthday bash, but it sure would be nice.  Well friends, UAL has made your birthday dreams come true. UAL is a liquidation store, featuring high-end brands at rarely seen prices.  During one of their sales I got 4 pairs of Paper Denim Jeans for $6 and an Of Two Minds blouse for $20.  UAL features brands from Diesel to Spanx, from Alice and Olivia to Dolce and Gabanna, from Burberry to Versace, and much more--all for low liquidated prices.  As with Essex, you'll want to inspect your piece to make sure there are no defects, as some of the pieces are there because they have been snagged, stretched, or make-up'ed.  However, other pieces are just there to be liquidated, which is about as good as it gets.

3. Marty and Liz Shoes in Coolsprings and Tullahoma
I once read a study which concluded that women who looked at beautiful shoes produced the same chemicals as they did when looking at beautiful  men.  After going to Marty and Liz I believe them.  Marty and Liz features a wide array of shoes such as Nike, Stewart Weitzman, Joan and David, Converse, Clarks, Steve Madden, Coach, Aldo, Kate Spade--you name it.  With the exception of higher end shoes, most shoes are under $30.  Who knows, you might need some cute shoes to go with that new Rebecca Taylor dress from UAL.

4. Southeastern Salvage in Berry Hill
Southeastern Salvage is a great place to buy urns, fancy pots, strange and ornate art for your lawn, and things you'll need for home improvement such as hardwood, tile, countertops, copper hoods and bathtubs (yyyeeessss) and cabinets--and all for a fraction of the retail price.  

5. Old Time Pottery in Murfreesboro and Madison
With glassware and plates starting at $0.30 and few exceeding $5, it's hard to find a better deal anywhere else on your table settings.  Old Time Pottery also features a wide array of holiday items as well as furniture, silk flowers, kitchen items, and home decor.

6. Deals
Deals is another liquidation store, which features an array of household necessities like toilet paper, soap, and trashbags. They also have an interesting collection of products from home shopping channels.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

Little Manhattan: Claiming Air Rights in your Kitchen

"Cuius set solum, emus set usque ad calm et ad infers." For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven and down to Hell."

Someday I'll have my giant kitchen with a Viking gas range, copper hood, and a chef's rack hanging from the ceiling, holding my All-Clad, Calphalon, and copper-ware.  But for now I have my little orange kitchen, linoleum checkered floor, and terra-cotta colored counter-tops.  And, to be honest, amid all of my dreams of grandeur, this little kitchen is the place I feel most comfortable.  I love to wake up in the morning, make coffee with my love, and sit within the cheery walls of this little kitchen.  

With that said, my kitchen is very small.  I think of it as my little Manhattan, where the only place to go is up.  Since it is so small I have allowed my more attractive pans and dishes to become part of my kitchen's decor by hanging them on the wall rather than hiding them away in a cupboard.  After making these changes in my kitchen I suddenly had 2 cupboards and 2 drawers free, where I could organize my goods as well as hide my less attractive wares.

Following are a few ways to maximize the real estate in your kitchen (note, you will need a drill.  If you don't have one and can't borrow one, you can rent them from Home Depot.  However, I believe a drill is essential to the independence of any woman.  The moment I bought a drill I decided I could do anything.  I bought mine for $30 at home depot).

my magnetic spice rack.
As it turns out all of my
spices were old.  Here are the
4 I have left.
I. Make a magnetic spice rack.
By making a magnetic spice rack you can free up an entire spice drawer for something else in your kitchen.  If you have had your spices for more than 1 year you need to throw them out, anyway, as they are now flavorless.  While making your magnetic spice rack if you see you need to replenish your spices, take a trip down to your international grocery, where you can find spices at a quarter of the price.

1. Buy magnetic spice jars at World Market, Bed Bath and Beyond, or Wal-Mart ($2 each)  Label them with appropriate spices.
2. Purchase a small sheet of aluminum from Home Depot ($4).  Ask the kind sir with the orange apron in the hardware department to drill a hole in each corner.  If you feel confident in your drilling abilities, then this is something you can easily do yourself.
3. Hold your piece of aluminum up to the wall, using a level to make it straight.  Mark inside your drilled holes so you know where to put your anchors.
4. Place drywall anchor in the wall. 
5. Drill your spice rack into the wall.
8. Hang your spices.

II. Hang your pans on the wall
I originally hung my pans on the wall because I wanted my kitchen to look like Amelie's (yes, yes, that was also during my black hair bob phase). Then I realized that I really liked having an extra cupboard, where I could put my less attractive kitchen-ware.  In my dream world I would have a pan rack, hanging from the ceiling.  However, since those cost $200-$600 I decided to hang stationery hooks on the wall instead.  I bought mine at World Market for $2 each.  You can also get them at Hobbie Lobbie or you can get cast iron hooks at the flea market for $1-$4 each (the cast iron hook guy is always outside and has his shop in a tent near the Bradford St. entrance).  Since my kitchen has a South American feel I bought these cute little Mexican Tile hooks.  

1. Place anchors in the wall where you want your pans.  Remember, these pans are now going to be fixtures in your kitchen, so put them in a place that is aesthetically pleasing.

2. Drill your hooks into the wall.  Make sure they're secure before placing your pans on them by tugging on them.  

3 Clean the bottom of your pans, as they will now be facing your kitchen.  I recommend Bon Ami or Bar Keepers friend.

III. Buy a magnetic strip for your knives

IV. Put up an extra shelf.  
In my kitchen I have 1 free wall.  On this wall I put up 3 shelves, where my pretty dishes sit.  I have also purchased glass jars in which to place my tea, coffee, flour, surgar, etc (Apartment Therapy has a great blog on open kitchen organization).  The space inside my dish cupboard is now used for my less attractive dishes, mixing bowls, and pans.  If you still need extra room in your kitchen you can place little hooks on the underside of this shelf for your coffee cups.  For 1 shelf you'll need 2 L-Brackets, a straight piece of wood, anchors, and screws.  You can buy L-Brackets at Home Depot for a dollar, or you can wait until the flea market and buy cast iron Brackets from the cast iron man (about $4 each)

1. Mark the wall where your anchors will go
2. Screw in your anchors, then L-Brackets
3. Place the board on top of the L-Brackets and screw into place.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making old boots into new boots.

When I was 20 I found my dream coat.  This thing was amazing.  It was a plaid wool coat from the 60's with fur around the collar that I found for $30 on ebay.  I wore it until it was basically unwearable.  While on a visit some years later my mom made me a proposition, "if you throw that piece of carpet away I will buy you a brand new coat."  At first I said no.  She insisted.  I asked if I could get a new old coat like my ratty old 60's coat.  "No," she said.  "I'm getting you a new coat."  Those of you who have met my mom know there's no use arguing with her--she will win.   I couldn't bare to throw my coat into the trash, so we compromised and decided I would take it to the thrift store.  We drove down to Goodwill.  I ceremoniously placed the coat in the arms of the kind man in the blue vest.  "Be good to it," I said.  Parting with this coat was just like parting with my 1st pair of chucks--after I threw them away I couldn't bare to buy another pair.  I mean, no other pair of shoes would feel like they had been to Europe, Asia, middle and high school, college, rock shows, the Hanson saga, my first performance, my blue hair phase, my red hair phase, my multi-colored hair phase, 1 giant highschool crush, research papers, the mall days, Greek class, school productions, when I discovered music, JNCO's, Miss Angie, Lilith Fair, and, not to mention, puberty.  Or it was like when Friends went off the air--after that I just stopped watching TV all together.  Was this coat my lobster?  Would I, in fact, stop wearing coats?  It doesn't matter how many beautiful new pairs of shoes you buy--you'll always want to slip into those old, ratty shoes that know the shape of your foot.  Silly as it may seem, that is how I felt about this coat.

That was 3 years ago.  Hopeless as it might be I still occasionally peruse the coats at The Goodwill to see if my coat is in there.  And to answer my question, yes, I did stop wearing coats.  For 3 years I have frozen and/or layered my clothing because I haven't found a coat I'd like to wear yet.  I mean, once you've had Jeni's ice-cream, why would you go back to any other ice-cream?

With that said, why throw our good-olds away when they're worn out?  Though this little trick wouldn't have helped my coat, it has helped me keep my leather looking new--or at least not old--as well as giving new life to my Goodwill, flea market, and garage sale finds.  

You'll need: a rag you don't mind throwing away, bee's wax or leather weather guard (Clark's has a good one), and a hair dryer.

1. make your leather warm with your hair dryer

2. massage the bee's wax into your leather.

3. wipe off any excess wax.  Your leather will absorb the rest of the bees wax.  Don't worry--your boots will not be oily forever.

4. allow your leather goods to sit for a day before using them again.

5. Voila!

Should it provide any release, feel free to tell us about the time you threw your first pair of chucks/dream coat away.

Note, do not use this on suede.  Wax may make some leathers darker.  Also, please excuse the sequence of my photos--after 20 minutes of fighting with Blogger I am finished arguing.  It won.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Let's travel like it's 1955: taking trips at vintage prices

Let's travel like it's 1955 in the new year.
6:30 am.  The Mega Bus was scheduled to leave at 7 am.  Brandon and I arrived at the Nashville Metro bus station.  "Excuse me, ma'am?"  I said to the lady at the ticket counter. "Where do we catch the Mega Bus?"  She looked at me like I had just asked her where platform 9 and 3/4 was.  

"The what?" She said.

"The Mega Bus." I answered.  I could see she was contemplating whether answering me was worth the energy or not.  She finally shook her head no.  

Brandon and I frantically called Mega Bus.  Shannon answered the phone.  "Hi, Shannon.  I'm calling from Nashville.  We're trying to find out where to catch Mega Bus in 30 minutes."  Shannon was on it.

"Alright, Mrs. Morgan," she said, "You will catch Mega Bus on Commerce Street, between the 4th and 5th blocks."

"Between  the 4th and 5th blocks?" I said, as if she had just told me to go to platform 9 and 3/4.  "You mean, just in the middle of the block.  That's where the bus is coming," I said, making sure I had heard her correctly.  

"Yes, ma'am," Shannon answered.  We hung up.  With 60 lbs of luggage in tow, 2 pillows, and a blanket, Brandon and I ran 4 blocks down to Commerce Street, swearing and vowing to buy a suitcase with rollers the entire way down.  Finally, we arrived at Commerce Street.  There, in the middle of 4th and 5th, were 15 sleepy eyed people, waiting for Mega Bus to arrive.  

I turned to Brandon and said, "Change of plans.  We're going to Hogwarts instead of Florida."  We laughed and thought about the 10 hours of Harry Potter we had uploaded onto the computer for the Mega ride down to Florida.   By 6:50 am there were 56 of us boarding the big blue Mega Bus.

Earlier in the month we had gone on Expedia and reserved a $400 room.  However, since we found it on Expedia we only paid $90.  We could have stayed for $40 at Days Inn, but since we had only paid $1 to go to Atlanta and $11 to go on to Orlando we decided we could splurge and stay on the 56th floor of the Westin Hotel in the heart of Atlanta.  After a trip to Ikea and some awesome cocktails at the swanky strange lounge in The W Hotel, we headed back to the Westin, enjoyed being married, and went to sleep so we could wake up bright and early to catch the Mega Bus down to Orlando.  

After spending 30 hours on Mega Bus in one week I have a love-hate-love relationship with the big blue bus.  However, with fairs as low as $1, I no longer feel like I need to choose between traveling and paying my bills, which fills me with more love than hate for the bus.

Up North, Mega Bus has double decker buses with seats that recline and televisions.  Randy, our driver, informed us that the South doesn't have that luxury yet because Mega Bus is still in the testing fazes for the Southern routes.  However, whether you ride in the North or the South you still get your own electrical outlet, a friendly driver, and have access to a bathroom on the bus. 

Following is what you'll need in your Mega Bus survival kit:

1. Hydrogen Peroxide.  It's cheap.  It's useful.  Put a little dab of this in each ear and it will decrease your chances of getting sick substantially.  Though the Mega Bus was very clean, one still cannot control who boards the bus while ill.  

2. Enough entertainment for at least 1/2 of your trip.  Mega bus does have internet, but it's very inconsistent, especially on the smaller buses.  Brandon and I uploaded 10 hours of Harry Potter and the entire series of Parks and Recreation onto our computer for our Mega trip.  We also brought 1 book each. Before we even realized it we were in Orlando.  

3. Wet Wipes.  Though there is a bathroom on the bus, its more like a Port-a-John.  With that said, there's no way to wash your hands.  However, the bus stops every 3-5 hours, so if you can hold it like a pro, then you can easily use the facilities at the stop, where you will most likely eat at Hardee's.  

4. Snacks.  Though Mega Bus does stop every 3-5 hours, the snack options are limited.  Furthermore, the bottle of water I bought at a gas station was $3, the nuts I bought were $5 and the gross cup of coffee I bought was $2.  For those prices I could have gone to Whole Foods and purchased Artisanal water and snacks along with kombucha and chocolate or I could have gone to Kroger and paid $3 for all of it.  Mega Bus has overhead compartments as well as a cabin for luggage under the bus.  So, if you have a backpack full of snacks and entertainment it'll only be cumbersome before and after your board the bus.

5. Make sure you print out your itinerary.  It will make boarding the bus much easier, as they check off each passenger who boards.  

This year let's travel like it's 1955.