Monday, March 29, 2010

Save me from savings hell.

Oh lordy lord, we are so close to the end of this savings hell that I can hardly think of anything but going on vacation and spending money.

We're both at a point where we spend almost as much time thinking about all the things we need/want to buy after the moneymoon as we do thinking about the moneymoon. I've been trying to prioritize my shopping list for when I return. So far, this is what I'm thinking about.

1. Clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. And shoes.
2. Curtains for the living room, thus cutting off the neighbors' spectacular peep-show into our lives.
3. Custom frames for the many prints we have.
4. Plants.
5. A credenza. Surprised it isn't higher on the list?
6. Still more clothes.

We leave on Thursday for a few days in San Francisco with family, so between this week and next week we've only got 6 days at home before the big trip. Neither of us has any energy or interest in cooking with so little time in town, so we decided to buy groceries at work for some turkey-sandwich-making lunches, instead of cooking up something interesting.  I think our plans for the evening meals involve various cereals, popcorn and pasta.




I've been toying with the idea of going meatless for the month of May. Not because I love animals (I love to eat animals), and not for health (I love to eat animals), but because I think it will challenge us to eat more of a variety of vegetables, and try some new recipes. I don't have an adventurous spirit when it comes to new foods - especially when it comes to vegetables. I'm inherently suspicious of them. I wouldn't even eat anything green until I was in university, and even now - when I know that I do like green beans, or can accept broccoli - I'm still hesitant to cook them. I could never be a foodie because I'm suspicious of new things. So, if I was forced to get a little more creative and adventurous with my meals by not eating meat, I might broaden my vegetable horizons.

That said, when I brought this up with H. as a possibility, we decided that fish wouldn't be considered a meat. Like a Seventh Day Adventist friend, who won't eat meat but says fish isn't an animal. We would go SDA meatless.


(these photos are from our last trip to San Francisco.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Maybe a cool name like SPark will catch on. You heard it here first.

This post is not about coveting or saving.

When I first came to New York in 2002 for an internship, I lived in Sunset Park for one summer. I had never really been to New York, except as a kid, and I had certainly never been to Brooklyn. I had to rely on the woman I was going to be living with (who I had never met before), and the internet to tell me what the neighborhood was like. And there really wasn't much out there. These days, Sunset Park is all over the internet.

First, here's an article about the neighborhood from the NY Times last week. That's nice, isn't it? And for all the griping about revealing the secret of what could be the next cool neighborhood, and all the outrage about the yuppification of various neighborhoods - the "secret" of Sunset Park has been out there for a long time. Here's an article that I read before moving here, from 2001. The secret is out, and has been for awhile. I find the outrage against yuppification as annoying as yuppification.

(I also found this article from 1985 about the neighborhood *not* sinking.)

Anyway. After a year in Kensington, and several in the East Village, it's refreshing to come to a neighborhood that's untrendy. Unlike the East Village, Sunset Park seems like a neighborhood - full of kids and families and neighbors who know each other because they've lived here their whole lives, and that's a nice thing - better than the tacos, the cheap real estate, and the fab views of Manhattan.

Incidentally, the neighborhood is also in the news for a rather unfortunate incident in the night that is best not mentioned on a blog that is mostly read by mothers and mother-in-laws. But really, the incident says more about what happens when buildings are repeatedly reported by neighbors as being the site of dubious nighttime activities - to no avail - than it does about the neighborhood. Anyway, now you're curious, so here's something for you.

Alright, that's all I have.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tall Drink of Water

Spring, you never cease to amaze me.


Lovely.

H. and I went on a marathon walk today, to gawk at the gorgeous houses in Ditmas Park. H. calls these leisurely walks "marches". Marching and gawking at things are my number one and two favorite weekend activities (after gawking: napping). It's also the best thing to do when you can't spend money and the weather is gorgeous (Mother Narture - you sure made up for last weekend!).

Down the street from us, at 4th Ave. and 43rd Street, is this old police precint, now decrepit. Every time I pass it, I remind H. that when I make my millions I'll buy it and fix it up and make it amazing. It will be like my own spooky castle, right in Sunset Park.


Isn't it amazing? Next to it are old stables too. I love the windows on the top left, and the tower.

I'd never been to Ditmas Park before, even though in my first year in NYC I lived in Kensington, just a short walk away. And Ditmas Park? It is amazing. And maybe when I make my millions, instead of buying the above building - and hiring a Pied Piper to drive out what is probably a healthy community of giant rats - maybe I should buy one of these:



H. says this is his new favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn, after Brooklyn Heights. I think the Englandy-sounding street names (Westminster, Buckingham, Argyle, etc.) and the proximity to the soccer fields at Prospect Park dazzled him. It's also close to the Pakistani restaurants on Coney Island Ave. I'll get to work on those millions.

I'm very excited about lunch this week. Last week's masala was good, but I was sick of it after about two days. Because I had made so much though, we were eating it through dinner last night. I tried to transform it - like Marge Simpson's Chanel suit - by putting it into the food processor and making potato pancakes. It tasted the same though. I even tried it with ketchup, and that was gross and a stupid idea. Don't do that.

This week I'm making chicken gyros! I even roasted a chicken for the occasion. A naked bird in my kitchen:

 
If someone would invent Smell-otography, you would be really impressed by this - the chicken shredded with some olive oil, garlic, rosemary and oregano.



Smell-otography, there's my million-dollar idea right there.

I made that tsatziki again, the one that was so good. My breath is kickin' now, because of all the garlic. Here's our delicious gyro in action:



And here is a door, and some broken stairs.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gorgeous

Happy First Day of spring! The weather here has been beautiful.

Look at this firey sunset over Sunset Park last night:


Anyone remember The Gandharvas - First Day of Spring?


Ah, grade 9.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lazy Monday

Last night I dreamt about Venice again, probably because I was reading my travel books in bed. In the dream we had arrived in Venice and H. insisted that we immediately go out and have a wander. So, we got into a packed vaporetto and set out. I realised that I hadn't emptied my purse at the hotel though, so I was carrying around all my stuff - my travel books, my passport, both my cameras and also a 2-litre bottle of Coca Cola. Hm. I wonder what it means? Don't pack my pop?

I had big plans on Monday for potential saving extraordinaire. I signed up for the Bumble and Bumble University Model Project - if your hair gets approved you can get a lifetime of free hair cuts and color by letting their experienced stylists try out their new techniques on your head. I thought I would have a pretty good chance of hair-acceptance - I have a pretty healthy head of hair, if I do say so myself. Healthy, long, curly - and I've even been told that my hair holds styles well. What does that mean? I don't know, I don't speak hair-stylist. BUT, it must be good, right? And a lifetime of haircare could save millions. Or fractions of millions.

But I was foiled. On Monday I woke up and we had no water! Nothing. And you see, I don't like to wash my hair, so I avoid it when possible (weekends), and by Monday my hair was pretty slimy. I asked my boss if I could work from home, rather than subject the office to my hair-slime trail. And that's what I did, stayed home staring at spreadsheets, wishing I could take a nap, and waiting for my water to get fixed. By about 3pm my water was on, and my hair was clean, and I planned to make my way into Manhattan for the 5:30 hair evaluation. But, I couldn't gather up the energy to go into town. Laziness overcame thriftiness. Sad. But, there's more opportunities to show off my golden locks after the honeymoon at a future evaluation, and I will go. Free hair cuts!

You might still be perturbed by my descriptions of a hair-slime trail and the fact that I happily go as long as I can without washing it. This isn't some grudge-era fashion hangover - I have curly hair. I have curly hair that I straighten every day to piss off my mom and the curly hair lovers of the world. My mom says I like to pretend that I don't have curly hair, and this is true. I'm so diligent about straightening my strands that recently when I decided to wear my hair curly, my best friend since age 3 asked me if I had gotten a perm. I hide curls from everyone! I covet straight hair. But I don't actually like straightening my hair - I hate my co-dependent relationship with my hair dryer. So, on weekends, I don't wash it, because if I wash it, then I have to dry it. See, it makes perfect sense. I can hear all you curl-lovers shaking your heads. Shut up.

Anyway. Where was I?

Last night I was browsing through Etsy and ebay looking for another item that I like to covet and admire and buy when I have money to spend. I really like old whiskey glasses. I started picking them up at Goodwill and yard sales. Ones like this:



"Produce" of Scotland! Ha! Having spent a year living in Glasgow, I can confirm that whiskey (or whisky, if you're Scottish) is as close as you're going to get to fresh produce in Scotland.

You can usually find some interesting glasses on Etsy for a couple dollars. If only I had a couple dollars. Sigh.

I also bought a set of Couroc glasses on Etsy. These bird ones:



But I bought those a long time ago, so I didn't break any spending laws. Aren't they cute? I could also bid on a matching tray on ebay, if I ever wanted it. I don't have anyone to serve with matching trays and glasses though. I am kind of into these silly owl ones on ebay:


But I don't need dozens of weird bird glasses, do I? No.

Just to add a touch more randomness to this post, I have discovered the the Key Food 13 blocks away - sells organic milk for just $3.99 - surely the cheapest in the 'hood. That's like $1.59 cheaper than the Pioneer or Met. I know this because on Monday when I was working from home I took my slimy-hair down there for adventure. Yay.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Just mention Jeff Goldblum for no reason here.

I think we're coming to the end of our tether in saving. It's not fun - at all. I just want to go on vacation, and then come back and buy things. Credenza things.


Alright, let's get down to business. H. and I braved the rain and winds this weekend to go out and buy our eats for the week. I made a chickpea masala to eat in pitas for our lunches. Full of potatoes and chickpeas - they should fill us up for all five lunches. H. and I split one this afternoon, to have a taste, and they were very nice. I think they were cheap, but it's hard to tell off the top of my head.

2 cans of chickpeas: $1.58
2 packs of pita for ten sandwiches: $2.58
3.5 lbs of potatoes: $4.32
ginger: $0.97
Huge bag of frozen peas, even though I only needed a cup: $1.75
cilantro: $0.99
Jalapeno: $0.20

So, our ten sandwiches (1 each for 5 days) cost $1.24 each. Very nice. Here's the recipe (though I didn't make the rava dosas, just the masala).

In the pot:


And then on the plate:


(It's lucky that we moved the clocks forward last night, since food looks better in photos when I use the natural light.)

H. made my favorite of his dishes, daal ka salaan (lentil curry with lamb). It warmed us up after getting caught in the rain on the way to the butcher.



I'm hoping these will keep us going through what's sure to be a long and tiring week.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Japan!

I think I love every single piece of furniture from this Japanese shop (from Apartment Therapy).


H. thinks I'm addicted to looking at furniture. Possibly true.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sprung

Do you realise what this is:


This is spring! Seeing the plants burst up is one of the most exciting things that happens every year. How can it not make you excited? I've been looking at the little sprouts all over town and every single one makes me happy!

I've been browsing Epicurious for ideas and I keep jumping on recipes for lovely things with summery fruits and vegetables. I'm itching for warm weather and lovely fresh things. I'm stuck in winter for now (technically, even if it has been 60 degrees), and I'm stuck in dormant season according to the handy Epicurious Peak-Season Map. Shame, that.

Have I ever mentioned that H. doesn't like cheese? It's sick. Disturbing. How does this happen? How can you not like cheese? How could I have married someone who doesn't like cheese? It makes it harder to find delicious recipes for our lunches. Cheese makes everything better, and so many interesting and delicious sandwiches have cheese, and without the cheese they're nothing. Especially when the Peak-Season map tells you there is nothing fresh and delicious to eat - that's when you turn to cheese for help and advice. What should I do with this hummus and bread? The tomatoes at the grocery store are as close to grey in color as red can be, and the cucumbers are tasteless. What to do? Add feta. Problem solved! Thanks, cheese! I suppose his aversion adds another hurdle to my efforts, but then, cheese (especially organic cheese) is pricey.

Anyway. Since it's crunch time before the trip, I'm going to have to tighten my belt even more. No more bought lunches after this week - not even one Friday treat. I pretty much have to go into hibernation to avoid spending money over the next 3 weeks. Only three? Yes, did I mention that we're going to San Francisco the weekend before we push off for Europe? Jet and set.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

H. made me take photos of his kofte.

Tomorrow will be one month until we leave for the honeymoon, and I'm so excited that today, during my afternoon nap, I dreamt about Venice. The dream got a little weird though, with some creepy masks and the appearance of a certain Catholic priest author of mine - probably from the organic shells and cheese I had right before the nap. But still! I'm tremendously excited. I have my guide books out and ready and I'm *this* close to pulling out my suitcase in anticipation. All our hotels are booked, flights and the major train journey. As for saving we're slightly behind my schedule because of the afore-mentioned out of town guest and vacation from saving - but no worries, it probably just means one less tiramisu for me.

I've just made the easiest lunch ever - bean burritos. They're extremely spicey. I haven't actually assembled one yet, because I don't want the tortillas to get soggy, so use your imagination. Wasn't my red onion lovely though? Like a teary flower:


The beans are black. And spicy. And here's a treat for you - they're possibly the cheapest thing I've ever made.

Calculate this:

1lb 13oz can of black beans: $1.89
1.29 lbs of tomatoes for salsa: $3.86
Red onion for salsa: $0.39
Jalapeno: $0.17
Tortillas: $2.69
Total: $9

And, since those should last both of us for four lunches - that's only $2.25 a day. For both of us. But, it doesn't include the spices to make it delicous - which were probably lots of money. But that's not a bad unit cost, non?

H. made kofte, which is delicious. Admire my meatballing handiwork:


And here is H.'s kofte-brewing handiwork:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Back in Black

Having someone visit is kind of like going on vacation. I spent a week sightseeing, eating a variety of New York pizzas, staying up late and spending money. And eating a lot - I think I'm still full from all the food. But now I'm back on track, though I've bought my lunch all week, and have developed a slight and temporary addiction to feta cheese at the local salad spot - totally not organic. I don't know how I'll kick the habit. I'll give myself one more day, tomorrow, to eat the wicked cheese, and then it's back to normal.

I came across this on The Kitchn yesterday - where is my milk from? It's really interesting! I had to run to the fridge and grab H.'s non-organic milk to test it out. Awesome! It told me that the dairy where H.'s milk came from also sells raw milk. I'm not quite up for raw milk, but a certain friend is obsessed with it. But then again, she is a bit of a milk connoisseur. She says she can taste the difference, and raw milk is far more delicious. I'm not really a milk person - I like it in my cereal or my tea, but I'm not going to have a glass of it. I blame this mild milk-dislike on my parents, who forced me to drink a glass of milk at dinner every night (and finish it before leaving the table). Forced milk imbibing has scarred me. But maybe I grew up big and strong - I am good at opening jars.

Anyhou, on Gothamist there was an article about some illicit raw milk activity in my neighborhood. Too bad my milk connoisseur friend up and left the city for greener pastures out west - she could have found herself in a real Brooklyn raw milk speakeasy. One of the most amusing things about this article is the always nutty comments - it's a milk war!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Silent Kid

Sorry for the web-absence. We have a friend visiting from out of town, and it's taken up most of my time. Also, there's been little-to-no saving, coveting or dairy-avoidance while she's been here. Until I have a few more minutes, enjoy a few photos of the last week!







More soon! I promise!
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