Correspondents Dinner Rundown

This weekend’s dinner was a huge success! There is nothing like spending a Saturday night hobnobbing with celebrities (and by hobnobbing, I mean standing next to and staring at celebrities).

First things first, the outfit. After much hemming and hawing, I opted to wear a dress I already owned. I tried to get this dress from Rent the Runway, but I couldn’t get it in time for the dinner.  I looked at other options, but the ones the I liked were all well over $200 to rent. As we know, I had a $150 budget for the dinner so that wasn’t going to work. I decided to spend my budget on primping instead. I got a mani pedi at my favorite nail place, Vicky’s, and then hit VSL for my up do (thanks to my fairy godmother). Here is the final result (photos courtesy of my fabulous and patient neighbor). You might recognize the earrings from an eBay oops earlier this year.

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The hair was ok. I  always have high hopes that it will look different when I get it done, but it always ends up looking the same. In the back was a simple bun – no photo needed. I wanted to do something easy since I was going to a cheaper place. I will say that she did a nice job, and I was happy with my $58 spent. I think next time I need to put more thought into what I want and maybe I’ll get that spectacular look I was hoping for.

The party, on the other hand, did not disappoint. I get sheepish about approaching celebrities for pictures, so I don’t have a ton of those. I did manage a spectacular photo bomb in my friend Kyle’s picture with Ty Burrell at the ABC party. When I realized what was happening, I knew I had 2 choices – duck or embrace the moment. Clearly, I embraced.

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Amazing right? Something about movies stars turns me into a total nut. Sigh. At one point during a mid-dinner ladies room run, I found myself sharing the bathroom with Amy Poehler, Olivia Wilde, and Morena Baccarin from Homeland. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for a picture in the ladies room, so I just I washed my hands for a very long time and then left when I was on the verge of being a real creep.

All in all, it was a pretty amazing evening. I was happy with my outfit, and I didn’t spend a million dollars either. Total budget breakdown below:

Dress and jewelry: FREE
Hair: $58 plus tip (courtesy of the hair fairy)
Nails: $42 plus tip (sponsored by my Aunt who took one look at my toes on friday and said “I hope you’re going to do something about those”)
Uber ride to the party (to arrive in style): $22
Taxi home: $8

Total expenditure: $148
Minus subsidies (Thank you Aunt T and my fairy godmother!!): -$118
GRAND TOTAL SPENT: $30

Not too shabby for a star-studded evening if I do say so myself! What do you think?

 

An Ode to the Hair Fairy

I have a new godmother. A FAIRY godmother to be exact. I have had regular godmothers since I was born – three of them to be exact – but this is my first fairy godmother. And man, did she show up at the right time.

My mom called me yesterday to tell me that someone dropped an envelope for me at her house, and curiously the return address was from “the hair fairy”.  We both were stumped (and still are, to be honest) about who it could be. Anyway, I finally got to pick it up this weekend, and lo and behold my hair fairy has given me a “sponsorship” for my White House Correspondents dinner up-do. Woo hoo!

I’m headed to VSL Hair Design in Dupont Circle tomorrow where there up dos start at $58. My grandmother always focused on the front of the “do” versus the back. She said that no one should be spending any time looking back there. So with that in mind, I’m looking to do something simple in the back and looser in the front. Perhaps something like this, courtesy of Dianna Agron.

T-minus 12 hours till dinner time. Do we think this will work?

The Top 5 Things I Learned While Vacationing in St. John

So finally I get around to my St. John vacation recap. Better late than never, no?? We had a fabulous time, though it is not hard to have a wonderful time when you are swimming in crystal clear water off white sandy beaches. Don’t believe me? See below.

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Here are the top five things I learned while vacationing in St. John:

1. Vacationing in the Caribbean is not nearly as expensive if you rent a condo. We opted to stay in a small condo community near Cruz Bay. We had a small kitchen that was great for making breakfast and lunch. We hit the grocery store for basics which allowed us to splurge on dinner out most evenings. There were some great restaurants (including this one and this one), but this one was our favorite. Check out the fried fish plate that we got on our last night. Needless to say, we went to this place twice.

friedfish

2. Tour guides can show you a whole different island. We were lucky enough to have our cousin, Frank, and his wonderful wife, Mickey, who managed the B&B across from our condo. In addition to helping us find our way around, our fabulous cousins helped us navigate the island, showing us some of its history and some awesome lesser-known beaches along the way.  We also got to go to lunch at this little gem of a restaurant, which we never would have found on our own. If you go, I highly recommend the grouper reuben.

3. In the Caribbean, goats are domesticated, everyone has a rooster, and iguanas are like island squirrels. Seriously, I have never seen so much farm-life roaming around on paved roads. Goats and chickens were all over the place! It wasn’t a problem for most of the trip until a rooster set up shop outside our place the night before we had to catch the 6am ferry home. Ick. Iguanas were everywhere too. We saw 5 in one tree one night at dinner. 5! This is one that I caught hanging out on the path when were walking into town one night. If you want to see really unique wildlife, you need to look underwater.

iguana

4. Snorkeling on your own is overrated, go with someone who knows what they’re doing. I was a disastrous snorkeler, and my mom was no better. We did try, so I guess that’s something. For my part, I floated around for a while, not seeing much, when all of a sudden a HUGE snapping sea turtle crept up on me. It was so scary! (I later found out that sea turtles don’t snap, in fact, they are vegetarians. How was I supposed to know??) In the meantime, mom kept coming up for air, not seeing me, and began worrying that I had drowned. Guess she didn’t have much faith in those swimming lessons she got me! We returned our equipment after only a day (thankfully it was only $8/day to rent), and tried snorkeling Discountess-style the next day. Basically, we stood really still  in the water and looked down for long periods of time. Despite looking like buffoons, we did manage to see an octopus, (snapping) sea turtles, silver fish, sea urchins and more! If I try it again, I want to go with someone who knows what to look for (and what will bite you). I think I’d have more fun that way.

5. Don’t even THINK about renting a moped. When heading to a Caribbean vacation, people often dream of renting a moped and scooting around the island each day. Well, not in St. John. In addition to the fact that you’re driving on the wrong side of the road, the entire island is covered in mountains. Really, really steep mountains. So steep in fact that I spent most of the time in the car with my eyes closed, softly singing to myself. You think I’m crazy, but you try speeding up a switch back with lunatic drivers whizzing past you on the wrong side of the road. I think you’ll change your mind.

All in all a fabulous trip. If you’re looking for a Caribbean destination for your next vacation, I highly recommend it!

 

Springtime Sunday Dinner – Menu of Champions

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Last night, my brother and I collaborated on a long overdue birthday dinner for my dad and stepmother.  We put on a spectacular party if I do say so myself – all very Discountess-friendly.

We planned a menu that used a lot of the same ingredients, which helped make the grocery shopping more efficient and cut down on waste. I don’t know about you, but it really fries me when I have to buy a bunch of fresh herbs only to use one tablespoon and have the rest go bad.  I felt totally vindicated when we conjured up this menu because it used up most of the ingredients we had to buy!

We started with Ina Garten’s Tuscan Mashed Chickpeas on a toasted baguette. Not only was the recipe easy, but it used basic pantry items that I had on hand.

For the main course,  we had roasted salmon. Since it was the star of the meal, I didn’t scrimp on the cut of the fish. I headed to an old family favorite, Cannon’s Fish Market, in Georgetown. They gave me a center cut of an 8 lb fish (I only needed about 3) for $28.89. I roasted it with a bunch of dill, parsley, lemon and green onions in the center, finished off with some salt and pepper. I drizzled olive oil on the top, added thinly sliced lemons, and tossed it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Doesn’t it look pretty?

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I made a “salsa verde” to go with the salmon that used up the rest of the fresh herbs. It was a sleeper hit! We rounded out the main course with a new potato salad and fresh asparagus. Wine was courtesy of my trip to California. And for dessert, individual strawberry shortcakes, recipe courtesy of Bisquick.

All in all a lovely meal, and for my part, the total tally did not exceed $80 (which will eventually be split between the two of us). Not bad!

For those who want it, I’m including the Salsa Verde recipe below. I highly recommend it! Easy and delicious. I don’t know how capers and mint go together, but trust me, THEY DO.

Salsa Verde

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, pressed

1 handful capers

1 large bunch parsley, washed and coarsely chopped

1 handful fresh mint, washed and coarsely chopped

Juice of  1 lemon

1/4  cup olive oil

Salt and cracked pepper to taste

Place the garlic, capers and fresh herbs in a blender. Add half the lemon juice and olive oil, and pulse a few times. Add more oil and lemon juice as needed to create a sturdy, herb-heavy sauce, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with salmon. Can be made a day or two in advance.

Weekend Activity: Georgetown French Market

A little plug to attend one of my favorite neighborhood events this weekend, the Georgetown French Market.  It’s an outdoor sidewalk sale on Wisconsin Avenue that includes some of my favorite uber-preppy stores like, Sassanova, Urban Chic, and Sherman Pickey. You can go here to see a full list of participants.

The market is will run Friday and Saturday, from 10am to 5pm, and it’s free to attend. It is really fun, even if you can’t afford to buy anything (though the flyer touts that many items will be up to 75% off!).

Oh, and I should mention, it’s supposed to be 64 degrees and sunny on Saturday.  All in all, this is not a bad way to spend a beautiful day!

Dressing the Part

I AM actually making an effort to get over my gratuitous March spending, but April is turning out to have a lot of stumbling blocks. Something about springtime makes me want to have dinner and drinks out every night! Ugh.

While I’ve managed to keep it mostly in check, my biggest challenge is coming up in 2 weeks. I’ve been invited to be a guest at the White House Correspondents dinner. Woo hoo! I was actually lucky enough to go last year, and it was a blast. The best people watching ever – there were movie stars literally everywhere. It was totally cool and very intimidating.

To give you a sense, here’s my favorite picture from last year. It’s just me, my table mate (who was very nice), and our good buddy Reese Witherspoon. NBD. Reese was super pregnant in this picture BTW, and you can’t even tell. Totally sickening.

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Anyway, I can’t just show up to this thing in some old frock when there are people running around looking as awesome as (pregnant) Reese. But, then again, I don’t really need to be spending a zillion dollars on a new ensemble either. Hence the dilemma.

Last year, I bought a new dress, earrings, and lipstick (Note: Due to my new years resolutions, I haven’t bought a new lipstick since January. It’s KILLING me.). I also had my hair done (we all know that Reese didn’t do that herself!), and hopped an Uber to and from the event. Obviously, I ran up quite a tally.

This year, I’m attempting to do it for a fraction of the price. My goal is to get it all – new dress, hair, everything – for $150 or less. For dress, I’m looking at Rent the Runway, eBay, and other consignment stores (Current and Ella-Rue are my favorites), but haven’t found anything yet. The hair is also a challenge. Despite all of my googling, yelping, and other general research, I cannot seem to find an updo in DC for less than $80 plus tip. $80 to stick my hair in a bun. No thank you.

Obviously, I have my work cut out for me in the next two weeks. I’m not afraid to do things by myself – I just don’t want to look like I did it myself. Make sense?

What do you think – can I do it? If you have any suggestions to help my cause, please send them my way! I can use all the help I can get.

P.S. If I had unlimited funding (Read: $1,990), I would wear this. Sooo awesome.

March Budget Breakdown – Better Late Than Never

As you can tell, I’ve been a delinquent Discountess. My end of March vacation to St. John and a series of spring weddings have rendered me without time to blog/keep my life and brain in order. After this weekend, I’ll be back in action. I have one more wedding, and then my schedule returns to normal. Well, more or less.

So at almost half way through the month of April, I give you the March budget breakdown. What I’ve learned this month is that vacations do not lend themselves to saving money. Not shocking. Still, the vacation (which I will give the full rundown on later) was fabulous and worth every over-budget penny spent! And, because I wasn’t in DC for a full week during the month, I was able to keep my grocery budget in check (of course my food and entertainment costs were off the hook, but I’m choosing the positive point of view). I also saved in the shopping category—a new feat for me. Aside from a few incidentals for the trip, I mainly stayed away from the stores last month.

Here is the full budget breakdown for March:

Cash/ATM – 14% over (I changed the starting number this month because the old one was too low, but this still isn’t good. I’m chalking it up to vacation needs and moving on)
Entertainment – 120% over
Food/Drink – 135.6% over
Personal Care – 5% over
Bills/Utilities (includes rent, cable, etc) – 56% over

I was even or I only used part of the budget (i.e. I saved) in the following categories:

Auto/Transportation – 71.5% used
Business/Office – 50.8% used
Groceries – 92.7% used (Astounding!)
Dry Cleaning – 18.8% used
Gifts – 65.4% used
Gym – 100% used
Shopping – 70.4% used (YES!)

Also in March, I managed to keep with my goal of taking the stairs at work more which has been a good change. Plus, with the new spring weather, I’ve been able to run outside as well!  The goal on the docket for April was supposed to be about my morning coffee purchase, i.e. I shouldn’t be purchasing it every day. I was doing well for the first week of the month, but this week I’ve hit the Brown Bag for my Swings coffee every day. Perhaps we should save that one for May? Anyway, since it is now springtime, my goal this month is to clean house on my spring/summer wardrobe. I plan to get it all out (it’s been in storage for the winter) and use a discerning eye about what I should actually keep and what I should get rid of. I’m hoping I can scrounge up a few good consignment options, so I can line my pockets for future wardrobe investments.  I’ll let you know how it goes!