Gettin Gin-ny With It

Ok, lame title, but I couldn’t think of a better way to describe how I spent last Saturday. I recently found out that Washington has it’s very own gin distillery, New Columbia Distillers. People have been talking about the craft breweries that have been popping up around town, like this one, this one, and this one, but I only just discovered the gin.

Not only do I love a good G+T on a hot summer day, it should also be noted that as a native Washingtonian, I get really excited when we attract new, different businesses in this town. Living in a city that’s entirely centered around the government is super boring, so I love that people are diversifying the economy here. They are breathing much-needed new life into the city and making it a little cooler and more fun to live here. Way to go, New Columbia!

Anyway, I got on the Green Hat Gin website (that’s their brand) a few weeks ago to see what it’s all about. Upon quick inspection, I found out that you can sign up to volunteer to help them bottle on weekends. It’s free to volunteer, and you know I need weekend activities that don’t involve me spending money. Clearly, I was intrigued, so I signed up online and last weekend my number got called.

It’s a pretty easy process, and they let you do a little bit of everything. It took about 2 hours, but it went by quickly because they gave me a few gin and tonics for my trouble. Not too shabby!

The whole volunteer process starts with what they call the gin cow. That huge silver canister to the left is full of gin, and they raise it up so that it drips into the machine with the funny looking udders below.

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Once the cow is full, then it’s go time. We dispensed the gin into the bottles, corked it, labeled it, and sealed it to go off to be sold.

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Here I am in the final step of the process, blow-drying the plastic top onto the bottle. Notice the beads of sweat on my brow, I was working hard!

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And, here is the finished product from my batch. If you happen to pick up a bottle from batch 43, you’ll know it was hand bottled by yours truly (and a band of other volunteers).

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The lovely owners gave us a discount on our work, so I took home a bottle for safe keeping. I was thinking of using to make this punch that I had at a party a few weeks ago. Or, I could try my hand at some of these.

So how about it? Have any of you had my hometown gin before?

Pillow Talk

I’ve had the same black and white bedding for absolute ages (absolute ages = about 10 years), and I’ve been hankering for a change. That said, it’s not something I have really needed, so I haven’t really done anything about it. That was until this past weekend when I decided to dust off my (very old) sewing machine and give my bedding a facelift.

To start, I decided to change my pillows. My friend, who happens to be a very talented seamstress, agreed to give me a tutorial on pillow making. I dispatched myself to G Street Fabrics and JoAnn to get the necessary materials to recover 2 big pillows from my bed (and in the process picked up an extra pillow and fabric – I just can never leave well enough alone). Between the two stores, I managed to find two great fabrics, a deep pinkish orange and a complementary print for my bed.

My tutor and I set up shop at her house. We had dueling sewing machines for the better part of 3 hours as she helped me learn how to make perfect pillow coverings. Of course, she had the pattern all in her head, but for those of you who don’t have a teacher around, this is a comparable one.

Here are some helpful hints that I learned in this process.

1. Check the remnant section of the fabric store for good deals. I found my orange fabric in the remnant section at G Street Fabrics. For those that are unfamiliar with the lingo, remnants are leftovers from the large bolts of fabric they sell. The stores want to get rid of every inch of fabric, so they offer the remnants at a cheaper price to get the most out of their original investment. Remnants are prefect for smaller projects, like pillows, and when the fabric is less expensive, it does take some of the pressure off about screwing up.

2. Never be too cool for instructions. My sewing machine is (much) older than I am. I have no idea how these instructions have stayed with it for 40 years, but I am oh-so glad they did. Each machine is a little different, so getting it set up and remembering everything took a good 45 minutes. Without the instructions I would have been totally lost.  If you have an oldie (but a goodie) like me and don’t have the instructions, check YouTube for an instructional video. You wouldn’t believe how many are out there!

**Incidentally, after reading this handy little book more closely, I realized that my machine has super powers (and by super powers I mean the power to automatically sew buttons on, monogram etc)!
Sewinstructions

3. Always, always iron. Of course, we know I hate to iron, but when it came to getting the seams right, it was invaluable. Check out those seams (and the antique sewing machine) below.

MSSewing

4. Don’t be afraid to screw up. Take this advice with a grain of salt because a) I was scared of screwing up and b) I had my very patient teacher checking my work at every step. BUT, the moral of the story is that you have to try, and if you screw up, you can start over. This pattern is VERY forgiving, so you have some wiggle room.  If your seams are ugly, stick them on the inside where no one will see them!
Cost Breakdown
Orange Fabric ($2.97/yard): $5.94
Printed Fabric ($9.99/yard): $9.99
Matching Thread: $4.29
Extra Pillow: $9.99
Total cost of my bedroom facelift: $30.21 plus tax
Here is the finished product. What do you think?
Finished pillows
I’m super excited! It’s a great new pop of color in my formerly black and white bed. Next project, is creating a new duvet cover. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Total Christmas Present Domination

Despite the fact that I wasn’t tracking my overall spending this past month, I did track how much I spent on Christmas gifts. I LOVE gift giving. Love it. It’s the ultimate rush to be the best Santa on the block. However, when faced with the prospect of gift giving on a budget, one can often feel like this.

I didn’t want my Discountessness to get in the way of being Santa numero uno this year, so I had to get creative. Mainly, I had to figure out how to buy the same amount of stuff without spending as much money. A tall order, but somehow I managed to do it! Here is how I achieved total Christmas domination.

1. Buy early, buy often. In past years, I have been a late-term present buyer. This usually means an 11th hour trip to Target and TJ Maxx for nonsensical items to stuff stockings and up to the last-minute online shopping with enormous rush shipping charges. This year, I made an effort to space out my purchases by starting to shop in November. The extra time allowed me to shop around and get the best prices.

2. Investigate alternatives. Our family sends gift suggestions each year to help facilitate the purchasing process. (In fact, we are supposed to stop buying gifts for ourselves in October to help bolster the list, but this is harder for me than it is for the rest of the bunch.  I did try harder this year, but, mind you, I set a very low bar for myself.)  Often, the suggested gifts are from the higher-end (read: pricier) stores, but with a little research you can find the same items at a better price at other places. For example, my mother’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook was $15 cheaper at Costco than it was in the store.  Price comparison sites like ShopStyle and Google Shopping are very helpful for this!

3. When all else fails, look for a coupon online. I have sung the praises of RetailMeNot.com before, and I will sing them again (along with Coupons.com and others). Even if you have to shop at that high-end store to get that ah-ma-zing gift, you can often find a coupon code for a certain percentage off. If you can’t get any money off, there is usually a way to get free shipping. It’s definitely worth a quick internet search.

So after trying all of that, I was able to complete my Christmas shopping on time and with some extra dollars in the bank. In fact, after a side-by-side original price vs. Discountess price comparison, I was able to save 29% off of the original Christmas price tally just by being careful, researching, and starting early. It definitely took more work, but in the end, having a few extra Andrew Jackson’s in my pocket was 100% worth it.

 

Resisting Neiman Marcus For Target

Today is a very big day! The much-hyped Neiman Marcus for Target collection is FINALLY out and available online. In my former life, this would have been a morning where I got up, made a cup of coffee, and got to work spending several hundred dollars to purchase a ton of stuff I don’t really need. But now, since I’ve turned over a new leaf and all, I followed the morning routine until the spending part.

I did look at the collection, and it is pretty cool. Some of the stuff is weird. For example, why would anyone want to spend $500 on an Alice and Olivia bike? It’s foofy looking (that is a technical term), and it probably doesn’t go very fast. It’s items like the bike that indicate that Target (whom I love/deeply adore) is looking for suckers with this sale. For. Sure. Still, there are some items that I had to resist purchasing. These are they:

For the home

Altuzarra Old-Fashioned Glasses
We used to have Old-Fashioneds every Thanksgiving at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. They hosted a separate thanksgiving dinner, so we’d have ours and they’d have theirs and we’d meet after for a late afternoon Old-Fashioned session. I have very fond memories of those parties, and these brought them back.

https://i2.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/18/14182089_120919103000.jpg

Altuzarra Gold Tray

If anyone has seen my house, they will know that I’m a big fan of black. Not that my whole house is shrouded in it, but I do have a lot of bold black and white patterns with gold, red, and yellow accents. Clearly, this would fit in.

https://i0.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/18/14189816_120919103000.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Bod

Lela Rose Top
So cute. Perfect to wear to my aforementioned annual Christmas fete.

https://i1.wp.com/img3.targetimg3.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/20/14206601_120919103000.jpg

Prabal Gurung Cape

It is cold in wintertime, after all.

https://i0.wp.com/img3.targetimg3.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/21/14210333_120919103000.jpg

Robert Rodriguez Top
I love the idea of this one, but I’m pretty sure it would make me look fat. Money saved!

https://i1.wp.com/img2.targetimg2.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/21/14210957_121014043000.jpg

Misc.

Marc Jacobs Gold Pouch
I always find little bags like this useful. It would be perfect as a little clutch or to use for makeup inside a larger tote.

https://i0.wp.com/img1.targetimg1.com/wcsstore/TargetSAS//img/p/14/21/14210325_120921183000.jpg

So now the big question – did I make a mistake? Should I go back in and snap one of these puppies up before it’s too late? Please advise.

Discount Gifts for Dudes

A friend of mine asked me for some advice on some Discountess-friendly Christmas gift ideas for her brother. I happen to have one of those, so I felt uniquely positioned to take on the task. In my case, my brother is extremely organized, so he put together a comprehensive (and I mean COMPREHENSIVE) list of suggestions. I’m using those to guide this post with a few extras, courtesy of yours truly.

Here are my two Discountess ground rules for holiday shopping success:

  1. When buying anything, ANYTHING online, I look for a coupon. My favorite site is RetailMeNot – they offer coupon codes and discounts for major and not-so-major retailers. At the very least, you usually can score free shipping, but lots of times they have codes for a certain percentage off your order. They aren’t the only site though – Coupons.com also has good deals for example – so it’s most thorough to Google the name of the store to find the best deal (e.g. Brooks Brothers Coupon).
  2. When looking for a specific item, I always search other sites. Yes, you can get that Calphalon 12” frying pan from Williams Sonoma, but Belk.com has is $10 cheaper (AND if you use the discount code 91441864, you can get 25% off that!).

Now, on to the ideas. Here are some of the things that I’d recommend, plus coupon codes where appropriate.

For the Meat-Eater

Nothing says man better than grilling with bacon. These bacon wrapped sirloin steaks are fabulous and thoughtful. If the guy can grill, then this is a great gift and only $49.99.

For the Traveling Man

A colleague told me about the Eagle Creek Pack It. He got one and uses it all the time for traveling. It’s one of those things you never knew you needed. Originally priced – $30.00 on EagleCreek.com, but I purchased one for my uncle from BackCountryEdge.com for 2/3 the price – $20.95 plus shipping.

For the Intellectual (and/or Car Enthusiasts)

Magazines! I personally love magazines. They are the gift that keeps on giving. My brother loves Washingtonian Magazine, so that’s always a solid Christmas bet for him. Living social has a deal right now for a year subscription for $14. I got one for my office holiday gift exchange – there is a $15 limit on our gift, so this works perfectly!

For the non-Washingtonians and for Washington style-makers, adventure-seekers, and car enthusiasts, Living Social has another deal for EsquirePopular MechanicsRoad & Track, or Car and Driver at $5 a subscription (oh and ladies, that $5 rate applies to a whole host of awesome magazines for us as well – Elle, Elle Décor, Glamour, Marie Claire, etc).

For the Athlete

Work out gear is always a good idea. In particular, my brother requested something like this long-sleeved tech shirt. According to RetailMeNot, you can get free shipping with the following code: AFPTTG.

(This one was a lob to my mom, who is in charge of stuffing my brothers stocking this year).

Any other Discountesses out there with good gift ideas for men? Please comment – I’m all ears!