An Ode to Craigslist

Have you ever heard of the blog, Listed District? It’s where blogger Ellen Richardson, who has been profiled in Refinery29 and Urban Turf and others, lists out her favorite Craigslist finds from the D.C. area.

I have long been a proponent of Craigslist shopping and selling. In fact, in true Listed District style, I listed my vintage bar cart for sale just yesterday. She’s a beauty, no?

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I’ve wheeled more cocktails around in this cart than I care to remember. It’s been my staple party service since 2006. I’m sad to see her go, but there is no room for her in the new apartment. I’m hoping she finds a good, cocktail-loving home.

By far, my most perfect Craigslist score is my couch. I bought it for $150 when I moved into my first apartment, and it’s been with me ever since. It’s the perfect apartment size couch. Big enough to lie down on (though my feet do pop off the ends), but small enough to not overpower the room.

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It even came already covered in the adorable black and white fabric! It was the best $150 I ever spent. Hands down.

With the move this week, I’m not looking to add any new items to my ever-growing pile of stuff. However, I couldn’t help taking a quick look at CL to see what gems were lurking out there.

Check out this fun metal shelf.

I love this mirror too. Admittedly, I’m a little obsessed with mirrors. They help add some dimension to my mini Georgetown apartment. I own at least 6.

This vintage leather coffee table would be great with some leather conditioner, a new piece of hardware, and a fresh coat of  white paint. Perfect for a sunny room!

What about you? What’s your favorite Craigslist score?

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Spotlight on: Trader Joe’s Bath and Body

Recently, my friends Regan and Katie from Cardigans and Couture, posted about their go-to Trader Joe’s food recommendations. As a frequent TJ’s shopper, I couldn’t agree more with their recommendations (though I might add this and these to the list), but it also got me thinking about all of the bath products that I use from Trader Joe’s. Here’s what I’d add to their list from the TJ’s “beauty department.”

I keep this hand soap in my kitchen at all times. It’s smells great, and it lasts forever. Don’t believe me? Here’s a great review from the I’m A Trader Joe’s Fan blog.

Speaking of lavender, this all-natural scrub is great for the shower. I use it after shaving to get really smooth, soft skin. Joluxe blog happens to agree with me.

Since we’re talking about shaving, I highly recommend the honey mango shave cream from TJ’s. It’s gentle on skin, smells great, and you don’t have to deal with a rusty can of shaving cream crudding up your tub! Check out what the gloss has to say on the subject.

This is my most recent TJ’s discovery, and I’m totally in love! It gives your scalp a tingly feeling when you’re using it, and doesn’t cause unnecessary buildup. At $3.99 a pop, it’s well worth the price. Urban Bush Babes put together a great review. Oh, and there’s conditioner too!

What about you? Have any items to add to this list?

A Weekend Experiment in Hybrid Living

I have always driven old, foreign cars. I’ve gone from a gas guzzling Volvo to a glorified Honda wind-up toy. I’m currently driving a 15 year-old BMW that I bought for its automatic windows last year. Clearly, the idea of having a new car is somewhat…well…foreign to me.

So, when Ford recently reached out to offer me a new car for the week, I decided to see what a new, American car had to offer. Being the Discountess, I requested a hybrid to see what all the hubbub was about. Plus, I wanted to make that free tank of gas last all week (and last it did!)

Now, when someone offers you a spanking new (and bright blue, I might add) C-Max for the week, it’s only natural to take a road trip. So last weekend, some friends and I tested out the open roads in my new car. Meet the “boo berry,” our sweet ride.

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The purchasing budget for the weekend was $200. Our destination – the new and improved J. Crew outlet. The new location is twice the size, and therefore has twice the deals. Yes, please! We used the Sirius satellite radio to pump ourselves up for the savings.

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The new store was even bigger and better than I had imagined.

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Yet, we each managed to stick to our respective budgets (total miracle). Here’s all of our loot.

 

 

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I got a dress, two skirts, a bracelet, a silk blouse, and a pair of pants for $148.36, approximately $52 under budget. Wahoo! I decided to use that $52 of savings to buy my groceries for the week on the way home. There is a Wegman’s right before you get on to 66, so we pulled in to check it out.

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Wegman’s is like an amusement park for people who love the grocery store (and I LOVE the grocery store). You could get lost in there, seriously. Somehow, I managed to keep it in check, and I walked out with $47 worth of groceries for the week.

Weekend expenditures:
Clothes: $148.36
Groceries: $47.00
Gas: $0 (!!)

Total: $195.36. Not bad if I do say so myself.

And, the best part is that I arrived home, after putting 400+ miles on the car, with just over a quarter tank of gas. That’s some pretty awesome gas mileage. I’m not in the market for a new car now, but I will say that driving this car made a pretty convincing argument for buying a hybrid when it’s time.

Sadly, I had to say goodbye to the boo berry last week, but we’ll always have our road trip memories together…

 

Happy Birthday, iTunes!

I tend to be a sporadic iTunes checker these days. I got really excited when I brought home my first iPad and downloaded all kinds of crazy stuff only to realize I had no idea what I owned. Needless to say, I dialed back the purchases.
But, last night a friend tipped me off that iTunes was celebrating its 5th birthday this week. Apple is offering free apps to the masses to commemorate the occasion. My friend said it was mainly games, but I decided to check it out anyway and I’m glad I did. They are offering some gold mines in there! My favorite score: the iPad version of How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It’s normally a $10 app (and $20 if you want the book version from Amazon), but for me, it was FREE.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a healthy obsession with Mark Bittman. He’s the lead food columnist for the New York Times. He’s a great cook (and dare I say, a great American!). I’m currently trying to live a VB6 lifestyle which he details in his latest book. I also love his Kitchen Express (a great purchase for people who have a fridge full of food and no idea what they are going to do with it). I have been meaning to pick up HTCE for a while, but I have no space for it in my tiny apartment (and no dollars to buy it either). Clearly, the cooking Gods smiled on me today!
In addition to my great find, iTunes is also offering a DJ app, which I downloaded to see of I can up my cool factor, and a map app with details on all the countries around the world. Oh, and there are games too. Lots and lots of games. It’s definitely work checking out.
Happy birthday, iTunes! I’ll be sure to bake you a cake from my new cook book.

Packing a Punch at Cocktails

Last night, a friend invited me to the coolest party. The hosts have had a standing friday night cocktail hour for years. Stop by, anytime after 6:30 for cocktails and nibbles to shake off the work week. I was amazed to see people coming and going for the better part of four hours, and they were still going when I left!

Each party has a theme, and last night’s was belated summer solstice. Our host and hostess served up this refreshing (and delicious) tarragon gin lemonade for the group.

It was a beautiful drink, served it in a large punch bowl in the center of the table. Of course, I was too busy enjoying my drink to remember to take a picture, so my description will have to do. The punch bowl was a simple glass bowl like this one from Crate and Barrel.

The punch looked lovely, and the best part was that it had a HUGE ball of ice in the middle that they made with a water balloon (!). Say what? When they told me how they made it, I just had to share! All you do is fill the balloon with water, freeze it, and cut off the balloon when it’s done. Easy and very cool. You can even had food coloring to the balloon to create a colored version. My brain is going crazy with ideas! Multicolored ice for kids parties, black or purple ice for Halloween, and, it has to be said, blue balls for a bachelorette party. Ha! So fun.

The long and the short of it is that it created a fabulous centerpiece that was super creative and inexpensive. They had small sphere ice cubes for each glass too (nice touch!). You could probably make those with water balloons as well or just order these from Amazon.

This is definitely something to line up for your next outdoor barbecue or house party. Trust me, your guests will be impressed!

 

Dry Cleaning That Won’t Clean You Out

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This weekend, Zips changed my budgeting life. No. Joke.

I realize I wrote about my dry cleaner ripping me off quite a while ago, but due to various factors (primarily laziness), I didn’t try a different option. Until now.

I headed to Zips on a recommendation from a friend. MAN, what a difference! The aforementioned laziness had also contributed to a huge stockpile of dry cleaning, so by the time I managed to make it over there I had 16 items. Eek. In the old days, that would have meant that I would be bracing myself for a bill that was well over $100. But, not at Zips! My 16 items included 13 full service dry cleaning items and 4 shirts that needed a wash and iron. For all that, my grand total bill was $31.84 (paid in cash, up front). Ah-ma-zing.

To give you a frame of reference, I went and picked up the last of my dry cleaning from my old place right after I left Zips. I had three items –  1 dress, 1 sweater, and 1 pair of pants – that cost me a total of $24.31.

Say what??? For an extra, $7.53 at Zips, I got 13 more items done.

Consider me a changed woman.

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.

The Great Oatmeal Challenge – Complete!

Well, I did it. Yesterday, I completed my Great Oatmeal Challenge. It took me over 6 weeks and approximately 32 oatmeal breakfasts to finish. Talk about a feat!

Thanks to all of you who sent recipes and ideas to keep me from getting bored! Since I make my breakfast at work, it was a little hard to try all of them. I did manage to try a few, but mainly I stuck to oatmeal, flax-seed, cinnamon, and either berries or half a banana. You should see the cabinet where I keep all this stuff in my office. It looks like I knocked over the Harris Teeter.

The fruit was a great addition, and it helped the oatmeal be a more filling. I really need a stick to your ribs breakfast. Otherwise, I become ravenous in the afternoon, and I’m entirely inconsolable until I eat a bag of swedish fish. It’s a bad, bad situation.

My challenge did help me stay off the fish (mostly), and it also allowed me to save a BUNCH of money. By my calculations, each bowl of oatmeal cost a whopping $0.08. Not too shabby! The fruit cost extra, but even adding in the cost of fruit, the meal is still well under $1. Compare that to a $3 oatmeal from Starbucks, and I think you’ll see who the clear winner is…

ME.

Bringing It, Potluck-style

I was invited to a potluck dinner party last weekend, and my job was to bring the appetizer. I was desperately trying to figure out what to bring when I remembered a recent post on fromage fort from one of my favorite cooking sites, Smitten Kitchen.

Fromage fort is the perfect contribution for the budget conscious guest. It basically takes left over cheese, mixes it together with wine and herbs, and makes it into a soft cheese pate. Depending on which cheese you use, it could taste slightly different each time. But, trust me, it is always yummy.

I used leftover brie, emmentaler, and parrano that I found floating around in the back of my fridge. This is what  it looked like in the beginning.

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On my way home from work, I stopped at my favorite local shop, Stachowski’s to get some fresh herbs. The owner didn’t have any out, but when I asked, he nicely gave me some from the back. FOR FREE. God, I love that place. I swear if they served coffee on weekend mornings, I would be there all the time.

Anyway, I used the grater attachment in my cuisinart to grate the hard cheese, and then cubed the soft cheese and added it in. I dumped in some fresh Stachowski’s thyme and minced garlic, hit pulse, and drizzled white wine through the feed tube until it meshed together into a consistency I liked.

I stuck it in the fridge overnight to let the flavor develop, and it was ready to go before my dinner on Saturday. I served it with pita chips, but it would be good with crusty bread or any other type of cracker. This is what the Smitten Kitchen version looks like (we ate mine before I could get a good picture!)

Here’s the recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

1 pound mix leftover cheese, harder cheeses grated, softer ones cut into chunks
1 Tbsp soft butter
1 small clove garlic, minced, or more to taste
1/2 to 1 cup leftover white wine
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, rosemary or chives
1 to 2 Tbsp. dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend cheese, butter, and garlic in food processor until combined. Add the wine through the feed tube with the motor running until you get a smooth consistency, but it’s not too liquid. Add herbs and sherry and pulse until just combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Not only was the final result delicious and inexpensive, but it looked fancy and made a lot. I gave half to my mom for a dinner party she went to on Sunday night, and we both had leftovers!