Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

Thrifty Rainy Day Activity: Bake delicious cookies!

In Chic on February 19, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Chocolate Chip CookiesChocolate Chip Heaven

So lately, its been raining and raining and raining. I started to think… what do people do when it rains? I know silly question, but we don’t have a lot of it here. And I was traveling along reading blogs and I read this post about Chocolate Chip cookies. This led to the original recipe from the Times and my search to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Now that’s a fine rainy activity if you ask me, and it cost close to nothing… I do believe they live up to the lore and the fame. I hope you take the time to make them. I am in love.

Two notes: 1)I used high quality chocolate chips, not the disks asked for in the recipe and it was delicious nonetheless and 2) I kept my dough in the fridge for two days and let it sit an hour before molding into dough with an ice cream scoop.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons

(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)

Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.


Thrifty City?

In Chic on February 16, 2009 at 2:16 pm

“Oh Austin?” People ask when I tell them I’ll be moving from sunny CA to sunnier TX in just a few weeks. And then I launch into the top 5 reasons I’m excited about the move… by the time I’m done, they want to hop on the van and move with me!
1. Housing Cost… I mean buying a nice house for 200,000 or less?? yep. In Santa Cruz the median house cost is 850,000! That’s pretty Thrifty if you ask me!

2. Antique and Boutique Culture: There is a keep it local, diy and reuse mantra in Austin that I look forward to tapping into. They also love being “weird” meaning original.. think funky little shops… I hope.
3. Being closer to the rest of the country: New Orleans is 8 hours away… not bad for a weekend!
4. Access to FREE awesome music. Austin is the capitol of live music and there is always something going on there.
5. Art Galleries and Museums rock too and have one free day a month! Nice.

Read: Alligator, Old Mink and New Money by Allison Houtte

In Chic, clothing on February 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

I just finished Alligator, Old Mink and New Money by Allison Houtte. It was inspiring and hillarious, or a houtte, so to speak! (I know, not funny.)  She writes about her adventures as a child rummaging through flea markets with her mother and her journey from a model in Paris to the proud owner of Hootie Couture in Brooklyn. I enjoyed it immensely, especially since in my heart of hearts, I’d love to own a vintage clothing/furniture store some day. Do read it, it’s worth it… your pocketbook may not thank you though. It sure made me want to go shopping!

Ode to Payless

In Chic, clothing on February 8, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Cute Red ShoesThese adorable shoes are at payless for $29. And they’re gorgeous. I have a similar pair of black wedges I got last season that are both comfortable and adorable. Honestly, good things come in all shapes and sizes, but more importantly, at all price levels. There are shoes that are stunning at all price ranges, but people seem unexcited by the prospect of looking in these lowly places such as payless. But in the end, its the smart ones who take from all levels of the fashion pyramid.

V-Day Crafts: Ribbon Greeting Card

In Chic, crafts on February 8, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Project by Kathryn Perkins.

Bright pinks, reds and oranges make an up-to-the-minute statement about Valentine affections. This delightfully simple greeting uses lovely ribbon and hand-made embellishments to express a Valentine sentiment.


card stock: red, pink
5/8″ wide bright pink satin ribbon
1/2″ heart-shaped punch
craft knife
scoring tool
double-stick adhesive sheet or at least 1/2″ wide tape
rubber cement
clear glass microbeads
Impress Rubber Stamps “Happy Valentine’s Day” and “Your friendship warms my heart” stamps
ink pads: red, white
size A-2 envelope: red or pink Read the rest of this entry »

Cheap Antiques

In Chic, furniture on February 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Have you ever wanted to venture into the antique world, but didn’t know where to start? Or thought antiques were too expensive? Quite by accident, I landed on craigslistsewing machine typing in “antique” in the furniture space and voila, there were hundreds of fun, affordable antiques with prices just asking to be negotiated. Antique stores add 50 % mark up for doing the same thing! So check out your local craigslist and go antiquing in your pjs!

Valentines Day on a Budget

In entertainment, food on February 7, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Here we are, one week away and what’s to do? We all know we love our SO’s but really? $100 for dinner? Here is an article I found inspiring by the Times in London.


Simon Majumdar

I recently received an email from a well-known London restaurant urging me to rush to make a reservation for their Valentine’s Day “extravaganza” experience.

Adding up the price of the set menu meal, wine and tip, I calculated it would cost me close to £100 per head. Now, I can’t speak for the rest of you but, in these times of credit crunch the chances of me spending £200 on a romantic meal — any meal in fact — are extremely slim.

But impressing the one you love with food this Valentine’s Day does not have to be a wallet-crippling experience. There are several ways for you to show your more romantic side, without breaking the bank.

1. Picnic with a few of his or her favorite things: Fill it with the food you know your partner adores. Bear in mind they don’t have to be expensive goods. If your partner loves a particular flavour of crisps or has an addiction to Walnut Whips, make sure they are in there. Knowing the foods that make them happy will say more than an impersonal basket of champagne and caviar ever could.

2. Hand-make a gift: If your budget doesn’t stretch to buying a Valentine’s Day foodie gift, then why not make them something special? I recently spent a day with master chocolate maker Paul A Young and he shared a delicious recipe for home-made truffles. They are incredibly simple to create and for under £20 you can make enough to keep your loved one sweet for days. [ Note, here is a great video on truffle making too!]

3. Do lunch: Instead of an expensive dinner, go out for lunch or brunch instead. Many of the best restaurants in the country offer fantastic breakfasts or set lunch menus that will be positive bargains compared to their regular menus. Nothing could be more pleasant than lingering over a delicious mid-morning or mid-day meal before walking it off with a stroll in the park.

4. Progressive eating: indulge in the relatively new fad of progressive eating which involves moving from restaurant to restaurant between courses. Set yourself a budget and take it in turns to plan the perfect place to have a starter, main course and dessert, finishing off with a coffee and a nightcap. They don’t have to be high-end places, just places that mean something to you both.

5. Eat in: What is your love’s favourite fast food? Recreate their most-loved takeaway dishes at home. Be it fish and chips or a Thai curry, serve it up in takeaway containers to add a touch of authenticity. Chances are it will probably taste better than the real thing and be a lot healthier too. Combine this with their favourite movie and you are set for the perfect romantic night in. Alternatively light some candles and treat your lover to an intimate and decadent home-cooked meal for two. Even if you splurge on some luxury ingredients, the meal will still work out cheaper than a high-end restaurant.

6. Mix food with fun: Think of unusual venues where, although the food may not be the main focus you and your partner can have lots of fun. A supper while watching a night of greyhound racing is fantastic fun and you may come away having covered the cost of a meal or even with a tidy profit. Scampi and chips in a basket as you play a fierce game of bingo will be as memorable as any fine-dining experience and a pint of cockles or whelks as you walk along a windswept seaside pier may either make or break your relationship, but your partner will certainly never forget it.

Remember, in the end it is the thought that counts. So, take the time to think about what makes your lover happy and they will be sure to respond in kind. Mind you, this is coming from a man who once bought his girlfriend an antique pipe rack for Valentine’s Day, so what do I know?

Simon Majumdar is author of the food blog

Money for This Old Thing?

In saving money on February 4, 2009 at 5:05 pm

apple ipod

Have you upgraded your cell phone, dvd player or computer lately? Are you still using all 3 ipods you’ve purchased over the years? If not, there are people willing to give you money for it… and send you a box to ship it in! will take it all. They’ll even tell you right there on the spot how much you’ll get for it.

V-Day Crafts

In crafts on February 3, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Martha Stewart

Felt Fortune Cookies from "The Martha Stewart Show"

From: Martha Stewart Show

Felt Fortune Cookies from “The Martha Stewart Show”

Felt Fortune Cookie How-To 1. Using fabric shears, cut a 4 1/2-inch-diameter circle from a piece of felt. Cut a piece of matching ribbon slightly shorter than 4 1/2 inches.

Using wire cutters, cut a piece of floral wire slightly shorter than the length of ribbon.

2. Using craft glue, affix the wire to the middle of the felt circle. Glue ribbon on top, covering the wire. Let dry 30 minutes. 3. Fold the felt circle in half, using the wire as a guide, so ribbon is inside cookie. Next, angle the sides toward each other, bending the wire at its halfway point and forming a fortune-cookie shape, as shown. 4. Assemble the fortune cookies. Carefully peel back one flap of the felt cookie, and insert a paper fortune and a few candies. Fold the flap back over to close cookie around contents.

Student Airfare

In travel on February 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm

STA Notice Board

Looking for more savings on airfare? If you are a) a student, b) a young person (under 30) or c) a teacher, you are in luck.

STA Travel Association and Student Universe offer amazing deals on air, hostel and all travel related expenses. I flew round trip to london a few years ago for $300. Seriously. I did have to talk to them on the phone about the rates they quoted on their site, but it was an amazing deal. Check em out and tell me what you think.