Wednesday, July 1, 2015

End of June Thrifting! - July 1, 2015

The fact is, I've been pretty down lately. A job hunt, behavioral issues popping up in the kid, worries about all aspects of my life. I asked Amy if she wanted to go to the movies, hooray! (spoiler alert: we saw Inside Out and it was awesome.) But when we met up, she first slipped me a $20 in an adorable card and told me to have fun at the thrift store. I cried, I won't lie.

So off we went to my favorite store. I didn't buy a lot (I didn't even spend the whole $20) but I'm pretty happy with what I did buy. (Not shown, a basic pair of shorts for the kid.) I think everything was $2 each - the jeans might've been $2.50 each.

Apparently this is a brand sold in Anthropologie. It's "Tulle." I liked the vintagey look to this top and the way it fit. It's a bit low cut but...
Amy said "Hey, I found this tank top with a built-in bra - get this and it will go with the shirt." So voila, I bought both. I actually haven't tried this on yet but I loved it - and it's Express and looks brand new!
I have several Old Navy shirts in this style, with the buttons going up and around the neckline. Cute cute. UPDATE: When I wore it out and about, I discovered that it has A HOLE. A teeny hole that probably nobody will notice, so I'll continue to wear it in certain instances but ARGH A HOLE COME ON.

Nice basic Gap T-shirt with some funky shoulder/back detailing.
This is Faded Glory. That's K-mart, right? That amuses me greatly because I grew up in the era of K-mart being so terrible and now here I am going "Oooo this is so cute."
And finally, two pairs of skinny jeans - Aeropostale and Gap. Both are short which means they won't bunch up when I tuck them into boots this fall.

See, not much, but enough to give me a little boost. And the movie was great - and the matinee price was only $5.25 and they actually had popcorn and candy for $2/each (but I snuck in candy from Dollar Tree and an iced tea (spearmint and honey!) that I'd bought using Ibotta (referral link!) to get it for way cheap). I'd absolutely go see another movie in a theater for those prices!

My kid is around the corner from turning EIGHT. EIGHT. So I'm sure I'll have a post about all those feelings coming up soon.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Recipe Post: How I Personally Make My Very Awesome Iced Coffee

I overthink things. This is fact.

And when it comes to writing in my blog, I absolutely overthink every word. I'm a copy editor, so I go back and catch errors and fix them. I reread. I write posts that I don't actually publish all.the.time. And I get upset when I realize I made a typo or a misspelling or I left an awkward sentence alone (and I go back and fix these things days later*).

I'm doing it totally wrong.

I have seen multiple bloggers lately - recipe bloggers and not - post about how they make their super special iced coffee. Well, look, I thought that was simple enough to not need a recipe but apparently it needs one. I'm jumping on the train and I'm following the crowd and I'm leaping off the cliff and I'm mixing up all the metaphors into one messy sentance with a typo in it that I am going to leave there and not fix. For now. Probably. (SENTENCE)

Here is how I make the iced coffee that I drink almost daily in the summer:

STEP ONE: COLD BREW

Yes, yes, I can absolutely use leftover coffee from the morning, if there is any, and just pour that over ice and call it a day. I can also freeze that leftover coffee if I'm feeling extra fancy and use that frozen coffee in with hot-brewed-cooled-down coffee. But I prefer to start with a cold brew - and that takes a bit of pre-planning. (When I forget, I do the leftover coffee/hot over ice blahblah. It doesn't taste as good to me, but some people think ristretto tastes better. This is my blog, this is what I like.)

I take one cup of ground coffee to start. The grind? I tend to go with a coarser grind, as that seems to work better. Lately I've just been grinding it in my grind-your-coffee-maker - I don't add water to the machine, I run the beans through the grinder bit until they fall into the basket, and then I turn it off and voila. I have to do this in two batches of a half cup of beans at a time, but it works. The roast/type of coffee? Eh. I have used cheap crap from the grocery store and it's just fine for this purpose.

Trader Joe's Half Caff
I recently discovered, though, that Trader Joe's half caff is actually amazing for cold brew - it just has the right blend of flavor and roast and bitterness (or lack thereof) and smoothness...everything. Plus, I often have my iced coffee in the afternoon when I'm not looking for quite the same kick as I get from my preferred hot coffee, which is organic Colombian from the farmers market (the indoor store, not the outdoor market). That also works for this "recipe" by the way. But just...use whatever.

Reason #12908 why I'm not a food blogger: My camera. No fancy DSLR for this lady! This is a good old cellphone pic. Anyway, this is what a cup of coffee grinds in an Ikea container looks like, if you were curious.
So I take this cup of grinds and I dump it in a container. Usually one of the cheap plastic containers I got from Ikea. Sometimes an old container I used to use with my vacuum sealer. Doesn't matter. Maybe someday I'll go for a Toddy - I've heard those are great. This works for now.

With 4 cups of water....
Then I dump four cups of water on top and I put a lid on the thing and I sometimes swirl it or stir it if I think of it, and I shove it in my fridge.

I wait...well, usually I wait about 12 hours. Sometimes a bit more, usually not much less.

Next I take the mesh strainer I bought one time because I wanted to make giant pots of sweet tea or something (spoiler alert: I did that maybe once) and I pour the coffee through it and let that sit as long as I have patience for it. Sometimes I press on the grounds in the mesh a bit with a spoon.


On the left, the empty container. On the right, the grounds being strained into a second Ikea container. I used a silicone spatula-thing to squeeze as much coffee out of those grounds as I could.
Then I dump the grinds in the trash (I don't compost but of course you totally could) and I rinse the strainer and I put a filter in it (the cone-shaped ones) and I pour the coffee through that one more time. This takes a bit of time so I pour, walk away, come back in about 15 minutes and check. Sometimes I swap out the filter if it looks a bit thick in there, but in the end what's important is just straining it all through the paper filter.

Paper filter, metal strainer, plastic container.
And then I pour it into the glass carafe that I bought at the Container Store (because how can you not buy things at the Container Store?) and decorated with my Silhouette, etching vinyl, and etching cream in a fit of craftiness.

It says "Ice Cold Coffee" in a font that looks icy. Get it? GET IT? HAR HAR.
 STEP TWO: SIMPLE SYRUP

Lately I just do this in the microwave. Equal parts water and sugar in a glass measuring cup (1/2 cup of each is pretty good and it doesn't matter what sugar you use - I've used brown, white, and cane sugar, and I've mixed the types when I'm running short on the one I really wanted), heat in the microwave for about 2 minutes, and stir WITHOUT BURNING YOURSELF OMG THIS IS HOT. If the sugar's not totally dissolved, microwave it again for 30 seconds or so, then stir again. Or do it on the stove top. It's not a huge deal.

When it's done, it will be hot so store it however you want. I let it cool in the measuring cup before pouring it into a little glass bottle I bought once at the Container Store because of course I bought more than one thing at the Container Store. And also I don't want to crack that cute little glass bottle, do I? I do not. Sometimes I throw vanilla in there - some of a bean or some extract - but mostly I just leave it plain.

Isn't it cute? I used Zulka cane sugar in this go 'round.

STEP THREE: ICE AND STUFF

This is the big fancy recipe you have been WAITING FOR. (For which you have been waiting...? No, I said I wasn't going to do that!)

1. Take some ice cubes and put them in a glass - water ice cubes, plastic ice cubes, coffee ice cubes, whatever. Cold brew is super strong so coffee ice cubes aren't a big deal either way. I have a few glasses I use for my iced coffee, but in the end I usually go back to a mason jar topped with a Cuppow. And for me, iced coffee always needs a straw.

CUPPOW! BAM! BOOM! I wish you could see that this Mason jar has an etched image of Massachusetts on it (not made by me) but I simply could not get it to show up on camera. Imagine it.
2. Pour some of the cold brew coffee on the ice cubes.  I don't measure, I just pour. You can't mess this up.

3. Pour some milk on there. Lately I have been using cashew milk because I won a bunch of coupons to get it for free but whatever. Cow. Cashew. Almond. Soy. Hemp. Coconut. I don't care, it's all good.

4. Then add in a slog of simple syrup. I don't measure this either, but I guess 1-2 tablespoons in a glass? Nah, just taste it. You'll figure out what you like. I like mine sweet like a dessert.

Oh and if you want a mocha, well, that's all EXTRA FANCY RECIPE TIME. Pour some CHOCOLATE SYRUP* in it and stir. Then it's a mocha. Tadaaaaaaaaaaaa.

*I'm partial to Trader Joe's Midnight Moo.

Then drink it.

So let us break down this recipe: Coffee, ice cubes, milk, something sweet, perhaps something chocolate.

I have, in the past, also thrown in some xanthan gum - a tiny pinch - and then poured the whole shebang into my Vitamix and made a frappe of sorts (the xanthan gum keeps it thick and stops it from separating - it's not necessary but nice), but that is just too much work lately.

There. Go drink your iced coffee.

Have I gone viral yet?

PS If you find a typo in this post, don't tell me. Famous bloggers make typos and grammatical errors all the time - I'm just following along. This time. This once. JUST THIS ONCE.

This post contains some referral links. If you click through and make a purchase, I get a few cents that I use to buy things like more coffee.

*I have already updated this post to fix two typos since I first published it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Newly Found Love of Podcasts - June 11, 2015

I brushed off the idea of listening to podcasts over and over and over. People would suggest them to me - usually specific episodes - and I'd come across interesting-sounding concepts here and there. I'd download one...two...and I'd put them on and realize, 15 minutes later, that I hadn't heard a single word. I have the same problem with audiobooks - my short attention span and insistence on multitasking, even when it's not the best choice for the situation, just made listening to long-form stories impossible for me.

But then, along came Fitbit, of all things. When I first got my Fitbit - on super sale on Black Friday, bought by combining Ebates [referral link!] and Kohls cash and sales and rebates and on and on - I lamented that it was OMG SIMPLY IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to ever get 10,000 steps a day. And by "anyone," I meant me. I'd hit a wall with my Weight Watchers Activelink - I no longer cared if it lit up all the way around, I'd just laugh at it. It would nag me and I'd roll my eyes. So I wanted the Fitbit to get me active again - and at first it didn't work that way. I'd get to about 4,000 steps and sit back down. I needed a bit more motivation.

Enter Serial.

"You HAVE to listen to it!" every single person I knew (or, well, at least five) chanted. "No, really. It's amazing!"

"I don't do podcasts," I insisted. And again, I put one episode on my computer, put on headphones, and listened-not-listening and rewound, relistened, and gave up. And yet - I caught just enough to be intrigued and then the obvious solution hit. I loaded Serial onto my phone, stuck my headphones into my ears, and went for a walk. And walked and walked and and walked and listened - intently, catching every detail. As you probably know, Serial was pretty amazing. It kept me walking - I paced the halls during my daughter's physical therapy appointment. I walked around my little city. I walked and I listened. I hit my goal of 10,000 steps. One day. Two days in a row. Every day.

And after that, there was no stopping me. I finally gave in to Welcome to Night Vale, which started out slowly but picked up for me at about episode 8 and from there....I was hooked. I pulled Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and This American Life because those were easy, but I wanted MORE. I started asking around and paying more attention to mentions of podcasts. My subscription list grew. My playlist grew. And I'm still walking and listening and looking for excuses to walk and listen a little more. (Podcasts are also great for long, boring periodontist appointments, by the way.)

I've learned that what I like is long-form, engaging storytelling (fiction or not). I don't usually like random roundtables of people yelling at one another or discussing a single topic. I like in-depth interviews. I like advice shows, even if - this surprised me - I cannot identify with the question at all. And I like a peek into celebrity lives.

Podcasts. The new blog. The new zine. The new it thing. And finally I'm into them too, perhaps a bit late but here at the party.

Because I have an Android phone and can't use OMGITUNES, I settled on managing my podcasts with Podcast Republic.

Here's what's currently on my subscription list - the serious, the silly, the frivolous:
  • AJC Breakdown - the AJC's answer to Serial. It's a little clunky but the story itself is engaging and there is all sorts of tangential information about how Georgia runs its legal system that I've found even more fascinating than the core story itself. (You have to subscribe to the AJC to get the extras though, which is both a smart business strategy and annoying as hell.)
  • Dear Sugar Radio - Cheryl Strayed, what can I say? Love her. Love her. Love her. Perhaps not as enamored when Steve starts talking (though I loved Candyfreak!) but overall, a good listen.
  • Invisibilia - I tore through season 1 and am anxiously awaiting the start of season 2.
  • Let's Talk TJs! - I'm a fan of the blog "What's Good at Trader Joe's" so I figured I'd check out this brand new podcast from those folks. I was worried it would be more random roundtable and less discussion but the first episode was fun and friendly. I'm giving it a go.
  • Love + Radio - Inconsistent but when it hits the mark, it's just so good. 
  • Radiolab - My current favorite. When my playlist is empty I go download back episodes (there are many - I'll never catch up). While I walk and listen, I find myself laughing, crying, gasping, and perhaps muttering (hey, it keeps people from bugging me!). This podcast is everything I want.
  • RuPaul What's the Tee with Michelle Visage - Light and fun. These two are a hoot and I feel like a fly on the wall listening to two pals chat. 
  • Savage Lovecast - It amuses me greatly to listen to this one on my walks. I'm very tempted to spend the money for the magnum episodes.
  • The Sporkful - Another new one for me, found due to a mention in Death, Sex and Money (which is not on my subscription list, I just realized, but probably should be). Food talk - dovetails with my love of food writing. I skipped the one about sausage (hi, vegetarian here) but devoured (ha) the one about marijuana edibles. I probably will be delving into the back episodes deeply in the coming weeks.
  • This American Life - You know what it is.
  • Welcome to Night Vale - My other favorite. I binge-listened to every single episode of this one over the course of several weeks and felt a pang when I finally caught up and now have to wait two whole weeks between every episode. I haven't yet bought the bonus live shows (nor could I afford to go to the recent tour, boo hiss) but I probably will. 
Other podcasts in my playlist that I haven't yet hit subscribe on (I found several of these from a Facebook thread and haven't listened to all of them yet) include Freakonomics, Call Your Girlfriend, How Did This Get Made?, KLAM Radio, Mystery Show, Black Girls Talking, Longform, 99% Invisible, and Gravy. And with all of that said, I think it's time for another walk...

Friday, May 29, 2015

Quick, Single Picture Thrifting Post - May 29, 2015

It's the last day of school! Summer is here!

Yesterday, I went to a local thrift store with Amy - this store also supports doggies and kitties, but it's a bit more upscale than my Ultimate Favorite Store. Still, this store has sales, great prices, and supports a great cause. While we were there, I bought my husband a shirt - and then I bought myself an X-O silicone mold to make swirly crayons (my kid snaps every single crayon in half and I've been saving them....) and I bought the kitties a toy that spits out treats (they hate it - it's going to go to my friend's kitten).

Well, the shirt - brand new! nice brand! tags and all! - was too big for him. However, unlike 99% of thrift stores out there, this one accepts returns - and until June 2, they're even giving refunds in the manner in which you paid. (Starting June 2, it will be store credit - still very generous as far as I'm concerned.) So I took off on my 1.5-mile walk (it's really not that bad).

I returned the shirt and got back my almost-$6 and gave myself permission to use that money to buy...whatever.

And the store was having a sale. Half price off all media - books, DVDs, and CDs. Books are normally $2 each at most, DVDs are $3, CDs are $2....I went a little crazy.

I wound up spending $12 on everything - but that was $10-ish for the stuff, taxes, and I threw the last 75 cents or so in the donation bucket.

Two CDs: Sarah McLachlan Remixed and P!nk "Greatest Hits....So Far!!!" (for fun) ($1 each)

One DVD: The Princess Bride special edition. I think I may already own this movie (not sure) but I definitely didn't have one with the bonuses. ($1.50)

Eight books:

  • Songbook - Nick Hornby (er, not 100% positive I don't already own this but I don't think so?) (50 cents)
  • Weight Watchers Fruits & Veggies A to Z (....I did already own this one - I'm going to give it to someone at my WW meeting or sell it or something) (50 cents)
  • Happier at Home - Gretchen Rubin ($1)
  • Swallow Me Whole - Nate Powell (graphic novel, discovered by my friend Heidi whom I randomly ran into at the store) ($1)
  • Let's Pretend This Never Happened - Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess! I don't love her like I should but I think this book will change that) ($1)
  • Cooking Bold and Fearless (Amy actually pointed this out to me as a book she already has...it was just too ridiculous to leave behind) ($1)
  • Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading - Maureen Corrigan ($1)
  • The Night Bookmobile - Audrey Niffenegger (probably my favorite find of the day) ($1)
Of course now I have to - HAVE TO - get rid of a few more books AND READ THESE.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nifty Thrifty - May 20, 2015

Lately my kid has been exhibiting some behavior that just isn't in any of the blogs/books about CP. I don't want to get into it too deeply (yet?) but I will say that when I tell people "She has an unusual form of cerebral palsy, and you can't assume that all people with CP are the same," I am not kidding. So she's been driving me pretty much up the wall and I desperately needed a break. Enter Amy and a short thrifty day (I took the subway in both directions so we had less time than when I subway it up and get a ride home).

We went to two stores. The infamous favorite doggie-kitty-prices-are-so-low store and a Value Village. As ALWAYS AND FOREVER, Value Village continues to destroy clothing by stabbing price tags on plastic cords into the worst spots and making holes. But on the other hand, as I've noted, VV doesn't have consistent "all of these things are the same price" pricing, so the treasure hunt aspect is fun.

Not shown: I was actually mainly shopping for my husband (HA, SURE) but I'm not posting pictures of what he kept. Men are hard to buy for and of course it's hard to buy clothing for someone who isn't present - fit and style are so personal. But I took some risks. I bought him three shirts and a pair of shorts. One shirt he rejected from the picture I sent him after I'd already bought it. I lied - I'll show you that one:



OK, to be fair, I knew it was silly and I knew it wasn't entirely his style but I had hoped....  And then his emailed reply came too late for me to do anything about my purchase. So Amy bought it from me to gift to a more suitable recipient.

(I also did not buy him this one:


...which was an 80s Esprit shirt that was adorable....but I knew he'd never actually wear it. But SUMO WRESTLERS PLAYING TENNIS OR SOMETHING WHAT?)

Of the two shirts and the pair of shorts that I brought home, he only rejected one shirt and that is because *sigh sigh sigh* it had a tiny hole on the neck, just below the collar in the back. It looked like....a Value Village hole! I don't blame him for rejecting it, I'm just pissed that I didn't notice before I bought it - and the shirt itself was otherwise perfect. But for $4, he kept a pair of Eddie Bauer shorts and an Izod shirt. Not too shabby.

Here's what I got for me...

THE COAT OF MY DREAMS. There is a story about this and the story is that THIS is the coat that I wrote about in the previous post. I never forgot about it and I actually found it on ebay in a better size, but the price just wasn't right for something that was more of a novelty to me. When I walked into the store this time around, I went over to the coat rack to see and.....IT WAS STILL THERE. And it fits...enough. And it was $2.50 (it was in a section where prices are a bit confusing and subjective, so I asked and that's what I was told by the woman who sort of runs the place and I said "OH!" and she said, "Oh, wait....yeah, $2.50" and I said HOORAY). I have already twirled around the house in it many times. It's by True Meaning, which apparently is a schmancy brand to start with. I may someday splurge on the proper size but for now, this is happymaking. 

Amy found this for me and it's a smiiiiidge too small but you can't actually tell when it's on, I swear (it's very stretchy). It's BCBG/Max Azria, which, again, is apparently schmancy. It has the dry cleaner's tag in it and the care tag says "Dry Clean Only" but it's polyester. I'm washing it on delicate. Or maybe doing Dryel or something similar. $2. 
Ann Taylor Loft foofy skirt. The waistband is actually very cute but I couldn't be bothered to fix it for the picture. $2. 

Tommy Hilfiger jean shorts. $2.

J Crew "Boy Shirt" that I think will be very cute over a tank top. I think this might have been $1.50.

Love love love this yoga shirt but, well, I don't know what it says on the side. But it's from a high-end brand (it's part bamboo!) and it's so soft and comfy and fits so perfectly. Can you translate it? $1.50.
And then this is from Value Village. It was 20 cents and I bought it because those are my initials. HA. Turns out it's the logo of a Chicago bank, of all things. There were about 10 of these mugs in pristine condition but I don't really even need one mug...
Lastly, and not the best picture - sorry not sorry - an H&M shirt that was 75 cents because it was the half-price color of the day. It's purple and basic so even though you can't try things on at VV, I took a chance. (I haven't yet tried it on but it's probably fine.)

And for the kid....

Value Village! $2.50. Children's Place shirt.

$1.50. Evy of California shirt which apparently is also higher-end children's clothing. I didn't care about that, I just loved the skull.

Another near-perfect Children's Place shirt for $2.50. I asked my daughter what the design was. "Dragon!" she said. Close enough.

And from the doggie-kitty store, shorts for 75 cents.

It's such a rush going thrifting, isn't it?



Friday, April 17, 2015

First Thrifting Post of 2015 - April 17, 2015

How can this even BE? Have I really not had a good, intense, thrilling thrifting adventure at all this calendar year?

Truth be told, I know I have popped in and out of a few small thrift stores since January, but I bought so few things that I didn't take pictures or post or anything. Don't cry, it will be OK. (Actually I'm sorry I didn't purely because I use my blog as my own personal catalog of when/where/why I bought my wardrobe for reasons ranging from "Hey, I haven't worn that in a while and nearly forgot about it" to "I want to resell this piece - how much did I pay for it?" to "WHY ON EARTH did I buy this?")

In any case, yesterday I did escape to thriftland and managed to hit two stores on my quest to fill in my daughter's summer wardrobe a bit. I actually also went into a Goodwill with high hopes. Hopes that were dashed by the absurd management of the children's clothing section - two racks against a wall, with the one holding girl clothing so high that I (I am on the taller side) had to stretch to reach it, and no rhyme or reason for the order of the clothing on the rack. I'm not asking GW to arrange by size (though other stores manage it, but whatever), but perhaps by season? By pants vs. shirts? It was just a giant mess, with tiny onesies next to skirts for teenagers. I bought nothing.

But I did buy things at the two independent stores I love and adore. Things for her and things for me. Let's look at the things for me first, shall we?

Hard-to-photograph Merona (Target) dress that actually fits beautifully. Looks like it's made from a higher-end fabric than it is. $2 I think.

Fanciest purchase of the day! Lucky cropped jeans. Specially priced at $5. Fit adorably. Can't wait to wear these when this rain moves out.

Abercrombie jeans because I have another pair and I love how they fit. They're too long but have that frayed/cut edge that I actually find very charming. $2.

Tommy Hilfiger shirt for breaking out of my t-shirt rut. $2.

I was worried this Apt. 9 shirt would be too old-ladyish because it looks that way on the hanger (and in this picture) but I swear, it's not. It's great. Very flowy and cute and again, NOT A T-SHIRT! $2. 

But, I mean, I need T-shirts. Forever 21 (just like me!). $2.

And Target sometimes does clothing so well. I liked the flowers. The shirt is more gray than brown, trust me. $2.

So hard to photograph, so nice in person. Nine West black tank-top-swingy-shirt-thing. $2.

And then the things for my daughter:

Levis that I think might fit her now. Old Navy shorts that...I think might fit her now. (She's tricky.) 75 cents each.

These will probably fit her in the fall. Old Navy, Crazy 8s. 75 cents each, I think? (All kid clothes at one store were 75 cents, at the other they were 85 cents because $1 plus random daily 15% discount, and I can't remember which I bought where.)

I mean....I couldn't leave this there even if it's too big. 75 or 85 cents.

Super soft and nice Gymboree sweater for the fall. 85 cents, pretty sure.

Children's Place t-shirt that will fit her now. For some reason this was marked up to $2, which is fine just confusing. 

Cupcakes! OshKosh. 85 cents, I think.

These were 75 cents each and might be too small for her, maybe, but seriously. SERIOUSLY. 

Gymboree shirt in perfect condition. 85 cents, I think.

And finally, the non-clothing items. $1 for Liz Phair, $2 for the Wii game (still shrinkwrapped). Notice that I didn't buy any books! Ah, how much I've changed....

Also, I tried on, swooned over, sighed about, and then put back a super-cute green blazer/jacket that was just the tiniest bit too small in a way that would've been problematic. I've found it online though and might splurge on it....

Monday, April 13, 2015

Still here

Just thinking and trying to decide what I want to say here right now.