Thursday, June 24, 2010

Retirement party

So, my mom is finally retiring - yipee!!  The irony is, though, that her retirement means more work for me - hmmm. 

So, to minimize the work for her party, I looked for some creative, but healthy options for catering.  I kept coming up with the same sort of things - Panera, fajita bar, blah, blah, blah...

I was brunching with some friends, and literally walked by this place - Dinner A'Fare.  It is one of those "dinner assembly" places.  They are having a great deal, though, 36 full meals for $149, and they will even assemble it for you.  I sent the link to the menu to my guests and let them pick their choices. They even include someone to assemble it for you - for free!!  I will have to heat it (maybe cook it - not sure), but all of the prep work and menu planning is done. 

Not fully sure whether it will work out, but keep your fingers crossed for me.  Can't wait for the update. 

Has anyone done any of these assemblies - please provide any suggestions :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Little nibbly things

I bought these fabulous little ceramic spoons (really similar to spoons used for soup at a Chinese restaurant).  Great for entertaining!  If you want to serve something posh, you have automatic portion control, or, if you want to make something rather ordinary just look posh, it is really easy to do.  I had some leftover red-skinned potatoes, cut them into bite-sized pieces.  Added an equal amount of frozen peas, 2/3 of a can of light coconut milk, and 2-3 heaping tablespoons of curry powder.  So ordinary - actually just leftovers  - yet they were gobbled up!!

Gazelle.com

I just tried Gazelle.com.  Great for selling used DVDs - really great to get cash instead of trading (although that can be great, too!!).  Best deals seem to be for popular, pretty recent boxed sets - my best sellers - John Adams and Rome.

Summer Concerts and Events

Every city has them - Pops in the Park, Shakespeare in the Park, something else "in the park."   Not only are they usually free, but they are one of the "it" places to see and be seen.  But, to do it properly, you definitely need to "know the ropes" before you go.  Without this knowledge, you may end up sitting across the street, in some parking garage, or next to the "port-a-loo."  Not necessarily my idea of a good time. 

Some things to consider before your next outdoor concert.

  • The die hards know when to reserve their spot.  Where I live - 5:45 (AM - not kidding) is THE time to go.  You aren't technically allowed to set up before 8:00am, but often you can hover around waiting to place your stuff.  I personally recommend bringing a tall, skinny latte, a baseball cap and some oversized sunglasses - but that is entirely up to you :)
  • Ask!  The people out there at 5:45 !!AM!! are there because they love to socialize.  They are the ones that organize their friends and plan great parties.  They all know what to do, and are always great to ask!
  • Get some gear - I call this an investment.  If you have some regulars that want to join you (they are very easy to find), share the love, and share the stuff.  This way, everyone is responsible for their "thing," and responsible for carrying it, too!  Some things that you need are:  a big tarp, a rolling something or other (cooler, luggage trolley, even a rolling suitcase will work - you may look a little silly, though), outdoor party gear.  Low to the ground (so that others can see behind you) chairs and a table (there is a great one on crateandbarrel.com) also help to set the mood.  Some decorative items (citronella candles, flowers) are a nice touch. 
  • Ask friends to bring nibbly things.  You could do a theme (even better if you match the theme of the concert), to help everyone think of something great to bring.  If allowed, don't forget cocktails and/or a good bottle of wine :)
I would love to hear tips from others on their outdoor events. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer blueberries - YUM!!

Blueberries - absolutely one of my favorite summer fruits! This week, they were on sale for $2 per pint, and I suspect that there are probably even better deals out there. I bought a lot, and stuck quite a few in the freezer - they're super easy to thaw, and a great addition to breakfast.

But, I kept a few pints in the fridge, and made the most heavenly blueberry cobbler. Perfect summer dish, it was GOBBLED down at a party that I took it to, it was super easy to make, and it costs only $5 to make.

Gotta give credit where credit's due, so thanks Bill, whomever you are :) I did change it up a bit - I don't like to be stingy, so I upped the blueberries to two pints. Everything else is the same (and don't forget the nutmeg!)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bittersweet carmely delightfulness

I just went to the store and they had a "closeout" on my very favorite cereal, Fiber One Carmel Delight. Gotta get your daily fiber ;-) They were $1.10 per box - about 1/4 of the normal cost. I love a deal, so, I bought every single box. And then, I called my sister-in-law who bought every single box in her store. Does anyone know if this is just one chain who will stop carrying them or if it will be gone forever :(

Back to life!

So, a lot has happened since my one and only, very lonely, post... I had an international move, I sold a house, bought a condo, went through another big life event, no need to elaborate here, but needless to say, life has been busy.

But, some things never change. I'm still frugal AND want to live fabulously.

Selling my house was painful - luckily, I had enough equity in the house so that I wasn't under water - I know that a lot of you are out there. But, if you are trying to sell, and you don't have to go into debt to sell, my advice is this: Suck It Up! Don't think about what your house was worth in 2007; if you want to move forward in life, get rid of it!!! You will be glad that you did.

The good news is that once you sell, you have your pick. And, for me, I kept all of my frugal principles, and found the perfect place. So, what did I buy???

As I told you, I am going through a major life change (not that life change) and really assessed what I want for this time in my life. So, I bought a new 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo, with a den, in a mixed use development. It is right next to everything - in the heart of the city, so my transportation costs have gone way down. The condo is small enough that it is easy to furnish (in fact, I bought the furniture with the unit - it was the model), and there isn't a lot of incentive to buy too much. I did splurge on some fancy closets - you do need them if you are in a small space. Although I have to pay monthly homeowners dues, I have been able to eliminate my gym membership because of the fitness center, saved on internet (wifi service available in the building), and don't have any yard costs. I'll post pictures soon!

Some things to think about before you make your move:
  • You don't have to buy. I know that buying is so ingrained in our thoughts, but renting allows you a LOT more flexibility, and if you are still in limbo in your life, it may be the better option. I knew where I wanted to be, and knew that I would be here for the next few years, so I decided to buy.
  • If you don't like yard work, don't get a big yard. Seems obvious, but when you're looking for a house, a beautiful yard could be alluring. And, if you don't like it and pay someone else to do it, it adds up. I HATE yard work, so I bought a condo! There are common green areas, maintained by someone else. Of course, I pay for it indirectly, so definitely consider the impact of homeowners dues.
  • Think small. Do you really need a guest bedroom? A craft room? A second TV room? You may, and that is perfectly OK. But, really think about how you live, and how you want to live. If you would rather scrapbook in the living room, then look for organizers that allow you to bring your stuff in and out of the living room. Don't buy a whole room that is basically just storage.
  • Creatively negotiate. It is often very difficult to know what the seller is thinking. Maybe you requested them to leave all window treatments (a standard thing to ask), but those ugly blue curtains were made by their dearly departed aunt. I say, give them some options. Some people are driven by the sales price, others are sentimental. I bought the model unit, and put together a spreadsheet with four different options, with different things to negotiate - higher sales price, but inclusive of furnishings, lower price, but no furniture, higher price, but more paid for closing, etc... You get the picture. Just make sure that you would be happy with any of the options. When I sold my house, the buyer wanted a very large clock that was a B*^&% to hang. Fine with me - I negotiated to leave some furnishings there for a few days (saved some storage fees), and I didn't have to find a way to take it down. Everyone was happy. Just remember that EVERYTHING is negotiable, including the agent's commission (the selling agent, especially).
  • Don't kill yourself to physically move. I thought that I could do it all myself - wrong! I did some things myself, but got help when I needed it. I rented a truck (www.uhaul.com). Their website is fantastic! They offered lots of options in addition to the truck, including hourly moving helpers, at pretty reasonable rates, that will help you move. You could even view comments about the movers, to determine whether or not they are the movers for you. Fantastic marketing strategy.