Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween!!! Super excited!

Halloween in New York is awesome! No two ways about it, this holiday totally belongs to New York. There aren't as many tourists as 4th of July, there isn't as much pressure as New Years Eve, it's almost warm enough to walk around in scanties, but the best part is really the subways filled with people wearing costumes. It's so great to get on a train with normal looking people and then watch it fill up with (drunk) people in costumes.

This year I am going as part of a group costume. (First time ever!) Wuh came up with two ideas, making things that shouldn't be slutty slutty. (Last year CP and I went as slutty hobos.)

SO this year nine of us are going as Slutty Dharma Initiative. Thats right. That group of island dwellers from Lost. Were going as a slutty dharma crew from the 1970's.

We got our jumpsuits here:

And Beth posted photos, here were are as a group. Nine slutty dharma initiative members and one smoke monster. (Okay maybe she was a zombie ballerina, but she doubled as our smoke monster.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gigantic tits: make me feel like a cow ready to feed the world, but the boys love em!

This has little to do with living on little money in nyc, but I wanted to keep the link.

I have huge boobs as compared to my rib cage. So I was pysched to find this page today. A whole lotta links to good bra sites.

This entry may be cleaned up later.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cooking at home: Chana Masala

I really like to cook.  (I have an AAS in Restaurant Management, that started as a Culinary Arts degree.)  Cooking at home can save you money.  On the other hand it can get really expensive.  You have to find a balance.  Some spices are necessary, but if there is a recipe I want to make and I don't have one of the more exotic spices, I just leave it out.  If after making it once I decide I like it, I might start looking for the exotic spice I cut out and try the recipe the proper way (once I know I like it enough to eat it again).  This works out pretty well.  Most things will hold up without the one signature spice, and I don't end up with a whole bunch of used only once spices cluttering my cupboard.

So I keep an eye out for recipes that look good.  (I also try to cook meat-free often. Meat's expensive, and fraught with green issues so I only eat it when I am craving it.)  Here is a recipe that I found on Apartment Therapy's site.  I wanted to keep track of it to try to make it some day so here it is:

I will probably skip the garam masala, (because I don't have any on hand) and the cilantro, because I don't like the taste of it.   I'll add the yogurt only if I have some plain soy yogurt otherwise I'll leave it out (or maybe sub in some coconut milk).  Everything else here are pretty much staples that are always in my cupboard.  

BTW Cardamom pods, which I get cheap at Little India on 28th, are great.  I often crush one, and toss it in the bottom of my mug when I am making a cup of black tea, it adds a nice flavour and aroma.  Also, I placed one in my jar of white sugar, which has added a lovely scent to the sugar, and earned me a puzzled look from my sig. other.  (Big ups to Hope for sharing the wonderfulness of cardamom with me!) 

I copied this recipe from Orangette, she has a lovely write up before the recipe which I would highly recommend reading. 

Chana Masala

This chana masala can be served in two different styles: with a half-cup of whole-milk yogurt to smooth and soften the flavors, or sans yogurt, served with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of fresh cilantro. I prefer the former, but Brandon leans toward the latter. Either way, this dish is even better the second—or third—day.

Good-quality olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
A few lemon wedges, optional

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven—preferably not nonstick—with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, stirring, and add a bit more oil if the pan seems dry. Add the cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Stir in the yogurt, if you like, or garnish with lemon wedges and cilantro. Serve.

Yield: About four servings

I read a review of this that said it was okay the first day, but awesome the second day, so consider making a double batch and trying it the next day too. :-)  Brown bag lunch!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A rant: Buying well vs buying cheap

This kills me.  

Okay, the simple example is jeans.  I not a big spendy-mc-spenderson, but I prefer to buy expensive jeans.  By expensive I mean like $50.  

Oh boy, okay, this gets more complicated because I also am a creature of habit, which might be part of this.  

I buy my jeans at the GAP.  It makes things simple for me.  I wear a six (except for my first 6 months of living in nyc when I had no money, ran 5 days a week to have activity, and shrunk to a 4, in the "curvy" style).  In my closet I have 6 pairs of jeans, 1 Gap 4, 1 Gap 8, 3 Gap 6's, and one pair of other expensive jeans I bought while out shopping with friends at PeachFrog.   They are all over a year old (except for the PeachFrog pair) and they are all aging perfectly. 

They haven't shrunk.  The fabric has gotten softer, but not stretched out. They haven't worn out at the knees (that takes about 5 years, I got rid of pairs from high school last year, because the holes finally spread all the way across the knee).

I have a friend who buys jeans at H&M.  They have shrunk shrunk shrunk. And the fabric starts to feel pill-ey. I like H&M for some things, like jersey dresses, and when I need a great stylish cheap top to wear to a wrap party.  But don't buy jeans there.  they are cheap cheap cheap.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Simple simple thing: Reading the weekly sales fliers

I feel like most of the stuff I do to save money is just so simple that is isn't worth mentioning, but then I actually got an email from someone thanking me for something I wrote.  Also, sometimes I note things here that I want to try to remember later.  Using this like my electronic day planner. (a story for another time, how I use a small day planner to keep track of everything).

So right, this simple thing is reading store flyers.  Most neighborhoods in nyc get a weekly sales flier packet dropped off on your doorstep.  Bring that in.  Leaf through and pull out the ads for the stores you regular shop at/are in your neighborhood.  Now go through those ads.

In the drugstore ads: Don't fall for the 2-for-1 on cover girl if you hardly ever wear make-up. Do look for stuff you actually use.   I usually keep an eye out for sales on Cetaphil, (the $12 a bottle gentle skin lotion I use) and the brand of toilet paper I'm currently into (used to be Scott, now I look for recycled),  and oddly drugstores sometimes run deals on cereal and beer.

In the grocery store ads, the same rule follows.  If you drink Chock Full of Nuts, keep and eye out, once a month it goes on sale for $1.99 a can.  

Looking through the ads for a few minutes every week gives you a familiarity with prices in your area, so when you see things in the store you know whether or not you are getting a good deal.  
Oh, and I don't have a member card at any store.  They freak me out.  In the discount vs paranoia scale  the paranoia wins out this time. 
Also, check the date at the top of the flier to see when the prices start, it's usually 2 days after you get the flier.  Make a list, and don't shop hungry.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Craigslist shopping

I love the concept of Craigslist shopping.  Buy things used instead of new, keep money circulating in the middle class, not pitching old stuff when someone else could use it.  Though being a bed-bug scaredey-cat I get a little nervous about it.  I'd rather get a piece from someone I know.  

That all said I read this tip recently on  Bungalow 23:

A Craigslist Tip

Did you know that you can subscribe to your favorite Craigslist searches in your blog feed reader?  That’s how I found my buffet.

Just enter your search criteria in Craigslist, then scroll down to the bottom of the results page.  In the lower right corner you will find an RSS link.  Right-click the link and then select “copy link address” from the pop-up menu.  Then open your feed reader (I use Google Reader) and paste that link address as a new subscription.

Now, whenever new items matching your search are added to your local Craigslist site, you’ll get notified in your feed reader.

I find that this technique saves me time by showing me only the content I want to see, and it helps me respond quickly after items are listed.

Happy hunting!

Monday, October 5, 2009

No more coffee house computing

I've read several articles about coffee houses in new york not permitting people to sit and work for hours while nursing a single cup of coffee.  It's understandable, they are small businesses and trying to make a living.  
Also understandable, I don't want to spend $3 every day on coffee I don't really want to drink while feeling bad about taking up table space.

ZOnks! Why not go to the library?  The public library has many many large tables, and old school supportive wooden chairs, and FREE WI-FI!  There is even a dedicated laptop table with a power strip at my library.

So I come here 2-3 days a week, its a short walk from my house, so I have a reason to leave and walk in the sunshine.  They let you bring your own snack/drinks and they are filled with interesting people.  You might be here right before toddler time starts and the place is filled with 2 year olds, waiting to be called into the conference room. You can watch the old men who come every day swap copies of the New York Times and the New York Post.  There are the teenagers who come in to play video games for hours.  All in all it is fairly lively.  

Check out Brooklyn library location and hours here

Monday, September 28, 2009

NYC Metro card computations

As I work from home I don't need monthly metro card.  (Although I may buy one in the winter to encourage myself to leave the house more often, to prevent SAD attacks).  I just buy a $10 card every once in a while and add more as I need it.  


I often find myself trying to calculate if this is the most effective way of spending. So this time I am going to do my computations online for my benefit and anyone else who is trying to figure this out. 

My rough estimate is: I should buy a 7 day unlimited if I am going to go on one (roundtrip, in other words two trips) trip to Manhattan for 6 out of the next 7 days.   Lets see how that estimate holds up:

7-day-unlimited = $27

$27 divided by $2.25 (the cost of a single ride) = 12 rides

So one 7-day-unlimited equals 12 singles rides.
that when you put money on an unlimited ride card you get a 15% bonus, 
so, lets see 12 rides is $27 dollars worth, but if you figure out the bonuses
To get $27 we make $27=115% and make x=100% and put $27 over x  = 115 over 100 (how in the world do I show this better on the blog, ugh!)
So that means 115x=2700, and we divide both side by 115 to solve for x.
so x equals $23.48

(Double check the math $23.48 time 15% is $3.52. $23.48 plus $3.52 equals  $27.00  Yes!!)

SO really a 7-day-unlimited is not equivalent to 12 single rides (or 6 days of going in and out) 
If you put $27 on a pay-per-ride card you would get $31.50 (including you 15% bonus) or 13.8 rides. 

Conclusion a 7-day-unlimited is good if you are going into and out of the city 7 out of 7 days or more (14 trips or more). 

So for me in and out tonight, in and out tomorrow, in and out Saturday, and maybe Thursday,  that's 8 rides, that's not worth it. 

(ps, this site says: If you ride at least 46 times a month, you should get an unlimited card.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brownies!! Wheat free, dairy free with added black beans!

OH Boy!! I am full of pep today! (Probably because I did a whopping 4 hours of hard work in the library.)
I made some dinner, which I will not be telling you about, bc it was an experiment gone wrong. But I had a whole heap of black beans left over so I looked up a black bean brownie recipe and whipped up a batch.  I based my recipe off of this one but with a bunch of moderations.
SO here is my version:
1 3/4 cup cooked and drained black beans
3 eggs
1-2 tablespoons oil 
1 unsweetened Bakers chocolate block
1 sweetened Bakers chocolate block
1 splash of vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
a few shakes of salt

crushed red pepper and turbinado sugar to top 

1st, look at your blocks of Bakers chocolate from the fridge and try to determine if they are too old to use (didn't have enough cocoa powder to even consider the original recipe). After scraping the outer layers of bloom* away place the 2 chocolate blocks in a microwave safe bowl along with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. (I had just a tiny bit of canola oil left, and I threw in a little olive oil.**) Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stopping to stir in between, when chocolate is melted stop microwaving.  This time can overlap with the next step.
2nd, Put the black beans in the blender, add the three eggs and puree until it is all smooth, or in my case until you think the blender seems really stressed and it is al smooth enough.
3rd, Add your melted chocolate, your, vanilla and your salt. Blend that all in.
4th, Add your sugar, and blend that in (or in my case, take the blender off the base and stir it in by hand, so the blender stops making that sound.) 
5th, Pour it all into a greased 8"x8" pan (or in my case a too small oval shaped ceramic baking dish).
6th, Sprinkle sugar and crushed red pepper on the top  and bake in the oven at 350 for 40 min, or until a toothpick comes out cleanish. 

On the original recipe someone commented that the brownies taste better as they cool.  In the name of science I'll try some while still hot, and then also as they cool.

Yay desert!

*when chocolate gets too cold it "blooms" aka some of the oil comes to the outer edges and turns white, I still will use chocolate when it looks like this.  Because I am cheap.
**I would not recomend using olive oil to bake, but when its 10pm and you want to make brownies, any kind of substitution works.

EDIT:  These brownies are good if you are on some sort of health kick, but they are not the best brownies I ever made.  Though, the best brownies I ever made have 2 sticks of butter in them, so it's not really a fair comparison.  
My roommate said they were good, but she also lived on Cliff bars for 6 months.  
I would make them again, since I like deserts that I feel good about, but I wouldn't make them as a desert for other people.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to find an apartment in the neighborhood you love

I just found an article about this on Apartment Therapy.  It is an application that maps out apartment locations.  Try it out.  It will take your craigslist apartment stalking to a new level. 

Personally I can never stop looking for a new place.  Which is kind of surprising considering I lived in my last place for almost 3 years.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hooray Governor Paterson!!

I am so excited!  I just got this news from the freelancers union. 

"Governor Paterson just approved a UBT tax cut for freelancers worth up to $3,400."  !!!!!!

Okay, for those of you who aren't jumping up and down and screaming/don't know what this means, the UBT is New York City’s Unincorporated Business Tax.  And basically it was created to collect tax revenue from business that were structured to get out of corporate taxes.  It unfortunately also taxed the self-employed/independent workers.  Before all you non-freelancers get worked up, you should know that the freelancers do pay a boatload of taxes. At the federal level we pay both the employer and employee portions of social security, we pay regular federal, state and city personal income taxes and we were paying the UBT.  BUT even though we had to pay the UBT we didn't get any of the benefits. The state does not consider us employees so we can't get unemployment, workers comp, or help from the Dept of Labor if someone stiffs us on a job. 

SO YAY!!!! 

Friday, July 17, 2009

what to do when finding a roach in your apartment

Warning: I am not a mature person.

What to do I do when I find a roach in my apartment? 
First I have a monetary freak out.
A second passes where I try to asses if anyone else will come kill it (the "is my roommate awake moment.")
Then I grab a flip-flop (I had many pairs, so I have a weapon close at hand), and kill that fucking roach.  
For roaches larger then 1 inch I grab a sneaker instead of a flip flop.
Then I scoop it up with a tissue, or 3x5 card bring it out in the hall and leave the body on the steps up to my landlords apartment. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I am scared. I am scared because my grandma is sick.  My grandma is a great lady, who grew up in Brooklyn with her spunky sister Marty, going to see B-horror movies and coming home late at night.  My grandma was dating a boy who was a baker, his parents were going to give them the apartment below the bakery if they got married, but my grandma thought he was boring. Then she met my grandpa, a man who just got out of the military and was moving to Alaska, they got married, got pregnant and my mom was born in Alaska before it was a state.  They moved back to NY and had 3 other babies, somewhere along the way it was revealed that my grandpa was a mean drunk.  
I don't really like my grandpa... and now grandma is sick.  And no one wants to visit them in Florida because it would mean they have to stay with my grandpa.  
My mom is thinking about going. 
She says she won't cook for him.  I told her they could just go to early bird dinner instead. 

Cold brewed iced coffee at home

While on a summer time road trip I drink cup after cup of iced tea.  I buy them at McDonalds, where I also stop to pee, and always get the unsweetened, with lemon, and several packets of sugar to add because I like drinks that are crunchy on the bottom. 

When I am at home in the summer I drink cup after cup of iced coffee.  I love it.  I love it super sweet with whole milk and sugar, I like it black with nothing added, I like it from the bodega for $2, or at brunch for $3 with no refills, but the best place to have it is at home.  For cents on the dollar. 

I cold brew my coffee to make iced coffee.  This came up for a couple of reasons.  One I hate diluted weak coffee, and making hot coffee to pour over ice weakens it. But more importantly, when I live in a 3rd floor sun filled apartment with no air conditioner in the kitchen I did anything possible to not heat up the kitchen.  So cold brew coffee it was.  

I made my cold brew in my french press.  I read several variations of other ways to do it but I had a french press and it kept me from drinking bucket loads of coffee.  (Why are we not supposed to drink buckets of coffee? I don't know, it just seems like one of those things we should limit ourselves on.)

Anyhow, this is how you do it.  At night: Scoop your regular scoop of coffee into your french press. (However much you use to make regular coffee in there.) Fill to near the top with tap water, (or filtered tap if you prefer), put the top on the press, but DO NOT PRESS DOWN! Leave the plunger up, leave the whole thing on your counter and go to bed. 

In the morning you can take the top off, stir once, replace the top and gently press down the plunger.  You now have delicious home cold brewed coffee.  It will be less bitter then hot brewed coffee, and in theory have more caffeine.  Some folks use this as "coffee concentrate" and will do odd things with it like dilute it with water and microwave it for a cup of hot coffee, yergh.   I like to pour it over ice and drink it straight.  It isn't bitter so I don't have to add milk or sugar, though I sometimes put a teaspoon of sugar over the ice before I pour in the coffee, and add a splash of soy and then drink it with a coffee stirrer, crunching the sugar up from the bottom.  YUM!

Here is the nytimes article on it, with measurments, and how to do it in a jar (hint, throw it all in a jar, and filter it in the morning),

I'll take some pictures next time I make a batch. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New York City sparkles

Here I am again amazed with this city.  It's a high I get walking around at night on a summer-ish evening when the air is damp and slightly dank.  Walking past the lights of Herald Square, walking by the dreams of 42nd and Broadway the city charges me up and I am full of love and amazement for this city and the people who have come high on dreams, wired on long hours and powered by the electricity of this city.  I love this city.