Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great way to save money

As all of my followers know, I'm definitely thrifty in other areas of my life besides food. I think this is in part due to being a student for so long. Anyway, I have discovered a fantastic new way to save some money that I thought I would share with all of you.

One of the bad things about moving to Chicago was the fact that I had to leave my long time hairstylist behind. As you can imagine, finding a new stylist can be fairly traumatic as can spending $50+ on a bad haircut. Here's where my tip come in and no this does not include going to Supercuts. Both of my Chicago haircuts have been at high end salons and have included both a wash and a style and have only cost me a tip. How so you may ask? Well, thanks to Craigs List I have been able to connect with stylists in advanced training. Usually I'll answer an add for an advertised haircut that they stylist is learning that I want and we set up a time. The cut is free but I usually look up the going rate for a cut at the particular salon and will tip according to that price.

Anyway, this is a great way to treat yourself to a nice haircut/salon experience if you are on a tight budget. It's also a great way to try out different stylists if you are looking for a new one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Low-fat and yummy!

In honor of my new found love for working out (and the looming bathing suit/wedding season) I've been cooking much healthier. Last night's dinner was perhaps one of my better achievements in this category. I made Asian style pasta with chicken and tons of veggies. As an added bonus it was also super quick to make. Since I marinated the chicken in a diet tonic water mixture I've named this dish Asian Tonic Pasta.

Asian Tonic Pasta:
For the Marinade:
1/4 cup diet tonic water
2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons each: pepper, granulated garlic
1 tablespoon each: Emeril's essence, lemon pepper seasoning
1 package boneless skinless chicken breast

Mix all the ingredients (except the chicken) in a large food storage bag. Mix well then add the chicken. Make sure the chicken is coated. Place in fridge and allow to marinate for as long as you'd like (mine marinated while I was at the gym).

For the Pasta:
1/2 lb spaghetti noodles
1 1/2 cup frozen stir fry mix vegetables
2 tablespoons each: teriyaki sauce and soy sauce
1 tablespoon each: Emeril's essence, lemon pepper seasoning, basil
2 tablespoons each: pepper, granulated garlic
marinated chicken

In a large pot bring salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. In a large wok heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable (or other light colored oil) over med. high heat. Slice the chicken into thin slices. Add to the wok. Cook the chicken until it starts to brown. Add the vegetables. Cook stirring frequently until the vegetables are cooked but still crisp. Now add the teriyaki sauce, soy sauce and all of the spices. Coat the chicken and vegetables well. When the pasta is finished cooking drain and add to the chicken mixture. Toss well and top with a little more pepper if you'd like.

Wait a few minutes before serving so that the pasta can absorb some of the sauce.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Too Funny!

For your viewing pleasure, Little Jersey Shore. I saw this posted on Perez and had to share it with all of you. Little Snooki and the Situation are dead on! Enjoy!

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Two Cents

As all of you sports fans are probably aware, Lane Kiffin in his most mature move yet left my beloved Vols to become head coach at USC. My response -- good riddance, have fun on NCAA probation with an increasingly mediocre program.

In my opinion it is not Kiffin who is the problem although he does make a great scapegoat. Tennessee's athletic director, Mike Hamilton, is the one who needs to be tarred, feathered and run out of town. Hamilton is the one who was behind Tennessee's former coach Phillip Fulmer departure from the program after 17 seasons (only two of which were losing seasons I might add). Hamilton was also the one behind Kiffin's hire against the better judgment of most. Al Davis may have a few screws lose but everyone is right sometimes, and folks Davis was right about Kiffin.

When you look at Fulmer's record there isn't really much to complain about -- 2 SEC championships, 1 National championship, consistently in the top 25. Sure he had two losing seasons but one of those seasons came just a year after ending up 12 nationally and playing in a very tough SEC Championship game against the eventual national title winner LSU. Fulmer's last losing season the team ended up 6-7. That's just one game below .500. That is also just two wins less that almighty Kiffin had this past year with a seasoned team.

Kiffin has a 7-6 record and has completely destroyed the Vol football program for the next season. Mike Hamilton I ask you, was it worth it? Was it really the losing season or did you just want a flashier head coach who would keep Tennessee's name in the media? I mean Kiffin certainly kept Tennessee's name in the press but for all the wrong reasons. I am inclined to think that it was the latter and unfortunately this gamble has come back to bite you in the ass.

If anything, Hamilton is the one who should receive the majority of Vol fan's angst. He is the one who should be fired. In order for the TN football program to rebuild, Hamilton needs to be let go immediately and someone dedicated to the University like Fulmer should be hired as athletic director and someone new should be hired as head coach.

So there it is, my two cents.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Years Resolution Help

Since it's very likely that the bf and I will be attending at least 2 wedding this year (last year it was 4, all of which at least one of us was in), I've decided to finally commit to losing the weight I gained while in law school.

Now I make this resolution every year and don't always keep it, but this year I've set my self up for success by using methods that have helped me successfully lose weight in the past. Also the sight of myself in pictures has gotten downright pathetic so that's also incentive.

I've decided to share some of my weight loss tips with the hopes of learning some of yours. First and foremost, I've made the commitment to cook healthier -- limit my butter intake and cook at home more where I can control the calorie content. Second, I finally found a gym in Chicago that I really like. I joined the Lakeview YMCA yesterday and love it (which is not surprising since I also loved my YMCA in Winston-Salem).

Now that I've gotten to the two biggies out of the way I thought I'd share some other tips that I've always found helpful when trying to lose weight. My first step was to create weight spreadsheet in Excel. Every morning before I get in the shower I weigh myself and log it in the spreadsheet. At the end of the week I log how much weight I've lost (or gained). I also had the bf take a picture of me in a bathing suit that used to fit me perfectly. The pictures will be updated every two weeks so that I've got a visual of my progress.

Finally, my favorite weight loss tip -- This is the best website, it allows you to log your daily calories, exercise, and weight, create daily calorie goals and weight loss goals. This is a great tool since most common foods are in its database so logging what you eat is super easy. It also grades each food that you eat and you can create a report/analysis of your food choices to see the breakdown of fat, carbs, protein, etc. in your diet. I also love the weight loss coach that tells you how you are doing!

So there are a few of my weight loss tips. What are yours?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Such Crap!

Dear Lane Kiffin,

You are a giant douche. You have no class. There is a reason your reputation sucks. You are a self serving opportunistic asshole.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to doing what I do best

As always, the bf and I made resolutions to lose weight this year which of course means cooking at home a lot more. It also means that I will be getting much more creative in what I prepare.

After my Aldi run today produced some pretty great stew beef, I created an oven beef stew that is not only super yummy but also easy and waistline friendly (i.e. I made with with no butter and only 4 tablespoons of olive oil which is heart healthy). As a side note, this meal is also super cheap to prepare, especially since you can get away with a cheaper cut of meat (again just make sure there is some fat in the meat so that it does not dry out).

This recipe also introduces one of my favorite go to pots, my Le Creuset Braiser (which I found at Goodwill for $10). Besides my dutch oven, my braiser is one of my go to pieces of cookware -- it works well as a large skillet and also as bakeware.

Oven Beef Stew with Cola
1 package beef stew meat (choose a cut with a little bit of fat)
2 stalks celery
2 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
5 small potatoes chopped
1 6oz can tomato paste
2 tablespoons each: Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce
6 oz cola (you can just fill the empty tomato paste can)
2 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
1 teaspoon + 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon each: granulated garlic, Emeril's essence, pepper
1 tablespoon each: basil, Italian seasoning, sage
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons
2 slices bacon chopped
Frozen peas
Water (up to 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 450. In a large dutch oven or braiser cook the bacon until crisp. While the bacon cooks, mix the 2 tablespoons of flour (plus a little more if necessary) with the steak seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt, granulated garlic, essence and pepper. Coat the stew beef in the flour mixture.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan with the bacon. Add the coated stew beef. Cook for a minute or two until the beef starts to brown. Add the rest of the olive oil and the 3 tablespoons flour. Stir well. Place the pan in the oven for 4 minutes. After the 4 minutes stir well and return to oven for another 4 minutes.

While the beef cooks in the oven, chop the onions, celery, garlic and potatoes (you may also add 1 chopped carrot). Remove the beef mixture from the oven and place on the stove over med. low heat. Reduce oven heat to 325. Add a bit more olive oil if necessary. Now add the celery, garlic, carrot and onion. Stir well and cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomato paste, reserving can and allow melt. Now add the Worcestershire sauce and teriyaki sauce. Stir well and fill the tomato paste can with cola (regular or diet). Add this to the pan and stir well. Make sure the tomato paste is completely dissolved.

Now fill the tomato paste can with water. Add to the pan. Add the potatoes and stir well. Add 2 more cans of water. Stir well and add the Italian seasoning, basil, bay leaf, sage and, the rest of the salt, pepper, granulated garlic and essence. Stir well. Bring to a simmer and return to the 325 oven.

Cook for one hour. Remove from oven and stir well. Return to oven for another hour. Stir well and check the potatoes for doneness. If the potatoes are not fork tender return to the oven for another 15 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. You may also need to add additional cans of water when you check the stew. Add a handful or two of frozen peas just before serving.

Serve with crusty bread and salad. Top with a little bit of sour cream and green onions if you like.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Let it snow!

While many of my fellow Chicago residents may disagree with me, I absolutely love the snow. This morning when I took Ms. Paddy for her morning walk I was able to take in our most recent snowfall in its undisturbed glory.. So peaceful, just Paddy and I and the sound of snow crushing underneath our feet (and you can imagine how early I had to get up to enjoy this, but it was totally worth it).

Anyway, this is more of a thrifty finds part deux since I took a short trip to the Salvation Army yesterday. Of my more notable (only) finds were two pencil skirts which I will use to illustrate one of the most important parts of thrifting -- you have to have an imagination. This was especially true for me yesterday since I was on a mission to find colorful pencil skirts (like the ones J.Crew had this fall). I was in luck, I found two -- one is from J.Crew about a season ago but it is 3 sizes too big; the other is a really pretty purple tweed with a waist that is straight out of Working Girl. Never fear, I've got a great dry cleaner who also does alterations. All the purple skirt needs is to be hemmed (easy enough) and to have to buttons moved over slightly to give the skirt a lower waistband. The J.Crew one will be a little harder but not much, only 1 inch taken in per side and hemmed. Although I will probably pay around $30 in alterations, that plus the $6 I spent on the two items is still only about 1/4 of the price of my inspiration skirt at J.Crew.

Finally, and the most exciting news of the day, apparently DJ Pauly D will be DJing a set at a bar here in Chicago in February with JWoww and the Situation making an appearance. I'm so there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thrifty finds winter addition

I'm very happy to report that I've finally found a thrift store I like here in Chicago (I've also found a consignment shop)! As you can imagine, I'm super excited about both finds.

I actually found the thrift store accidentally -- I was running errands and saw a Salvation Army thrift store next to Jewel and decided to check it out. I was skeptical at first since it has been my experience that Salvation Army thrift stores usually aren't that great; however, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this gem.

My first stop came up a little dry, but I really lucked out on my second and third visits. My second visit stemmed from a conversation with my mom regarding winter boots. Since moving to Chicago in May my mom has been pretty insistent that I purchase a heavy winter coat and warm boots (aka Uggs). I, of course, resisted at first, but ended up with a beautiful coat but still wouldn't let her talk me into the Uggs. You see, I really hate Uggs because living in the south for all of my life my only exposure to the boot was that horrible miniskirt/Ugg trend. However, on one of those balmy Chicago winter days where there was no snow on the ground (so I couldn't wear rainboots with wool socks) I wore only my dress shoes with trouser socks; I then realized that my mom was right -- I needed a pair of winter boots. I was going to purchase the Ugg type shoe at Target or Wal-Mart -- after all I would only wear them too and from the train, but my mom insisted that I purchase the Uggs. Long story short, in order to make my mom happy and also not spend $150 I decided to see what the Salvation Army had.

My trip to the Salvation Army not only procured me a pair of gently used Uggs (which I promptly cleaned and sanitized) but 3 cashmere sweaters, a scarf, and a pair of Marc Jacobs corduroy pants, which only cost me $20.

So excited about these finds, when discussing Christmas gifts for me from the bf, he asked me what I wanted in addition to the sweater he had already gotten me. I told him that I wanted a Salvation Army shopping spree. Not surprised, he told me that would be find and on the next Saturday we went and he said I had $20 and 1 hour. This trip yielded even better finds -- a pair of Blue Cult jeans, another cashmere sweater, and a Brooks Brothers pea coat. Of these finds the pea coat was the best find because I got it for $8 -- a similar coat on the Brooks Brothers website was $698. Needless to say I am very excited about my finds.

I've also been looking for the perfect pair of brown boots for sometime now. I've checked consignment shops, thrift stores, ebay and finally found the perfect pair at They are so cute, tall burgundy/brown leather boots with a small heel, perfectly broken in, and all mine for $11. I'll post pics of everything as soon as I find my missing camera cord.

Have any of you found any great bargains lately?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday, I know I did.

Now that I'm back in Chicago (just in time for the balmy weather we're currently enjoying I might add), I've got tons of new ideas for posts.

My first post topic of the new year came to me yesterday as I was grocery shopping at my favorite grocery store, Aldi. Shopping at discount stores like Aldi is a great way to save money on groceries, the quality is the same (Aldi is actually owned by the same company that owns Trader Joes) so only you will know the product is generic.

I actually started shopping at Aldi when I lived in Austria, it was the closest market to my apartment and I really loved the concept (and the beer prices). When I was living in Winston-Salem there was an Aldi near the Target I used to shop at and I often would try and buy groceries there when I could but it was a little far from my apartment and I'm lazy.

Anyway, Aldi is the closest grocery store to my apartment here in Chicago (there is also a larger one near Costco) and I've renewed my love of the store. What I really love so much about Aldi is the quality/price ratio. I've never purchased anything at Aldi that wasn't an excellent value and once you get past the fact that everything is store brand (there are very few national brands) you are pleasantly surprised by how much you can purchase at a fraction of the price of a regular supermarket.

Because the bf and I have been out of town due to the holidays we had not gone on a big grocery shopping trip since Thanksgiving. Of course, this meant one thing -- we were due for a big shopping trip, so I went to Aldi. I ended up getting an entire cart of food (including an entire brisket) for $65. Needless to say, I was super excited, especially since everything that I purchased would have been twice that amount at my local Jewell.

So the point of this post (which I know sounds more like a ramble) is twofold: (1) to express my undying love for Aldi, the discount supermarket; and (2) to share one of my favorite money saving secrets.