On my own for Thanksgiving

Ali Bar

Meal I really wanted to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents in Buffalo, but after some of my transportation plans fell through and the alternatives kept getting more expensive or complicated, I ended up staying in New York for the holiday. I was very sad but was willing to make the best of it. After all, spending Thanksgiving in New York should be fun. On Wednesday a friend and I traveled to our nearby supermarket and purchased all the provisions for our Thanksgiving feast. Since I don't eat much meat, all of the dishes were vegetarian. I know, I know – a turkeyless Thanksgiving. But just let me share the menu: baked, buttered Brussels sprouts with walnuts; Portobello mushrooms stuffed with brown rice, lentils, onions, bread cubes and spices, and gnocchi with red onions and radicchio sauteed in balsamic vinegar. For two people, it was a ton of food and there were lots of leftovers. I’ll eat one of those leftover mushrooms today and figure I’ll use the rice and lentils that didn’t make it into the mushroom stuffing for some sort of soup. I had planned on making pumpkin dumplings to go with the red onions and radicchio but they failed. The gnocchi was a last-minute replacement. The grocery bill for the Thanksgiving meal – plus food for the next week -- was $80.

For entertainment I went to see the inflation of the balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in a staging area at W 79th and Columbus Drive.  Apparently 6 p.m. was prime time for viewing the balloons. There were so many strollers rolling over me and kids riding on their parents’ shoulders and tugging my hair that I didn't have the best time. Since the balloons were open until 10 p.m., I should have reversed my plan of going to see the balloons and then a movie. That way I would have arrived at the balloon staging area later when all the sweet children were blissfully asleep.

I hope everyone had a glorious and stuffed Thanksgiving. One friend of mine bought a pre-made Thanksgiving dinner for 8 to 10 people at Target for $60. The Target dinner included an Archer Farms turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry relish, rolls, a 9-inch pie and a coffee sampler. It seems like a pretty good deal if you aren’t into serious holiday cooking but still want the comfort of a holiday meal.

For future reference, let me hear how you spent the holiday. I’m always on the lookout for ways to celebrate without spending lots of money.

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Brooklyn Flea

Ali Bar

A couple weekends ago I went to the Brooklyn Flea Market, which I highly recommend. I wasn't all that thrifty, dropping $20 for a pair of earrings and $4 for a milkshake, but all in all, it was worth it. I met up with friends, and we just wandered around, looking, touching, picking up all the little antiques and handmade goods. I liked so many things. Some of them were pricey but I found lots of reasonably priced stuff too.  We went around lunch time and hopping to save a few bucks, I grabbed some food from home. But my friends didn’t bring such provisions. They had a choice of food stands selling everything from gourmet pizzas to grilled cheese sandwiches. I couldn’t resist a chocolate milkshake that turned out to be so rich it was an effort to finish it. On a side-note: Nate from "The Nate Berkus Show" was at the flea market filming a segment. He does a good job of showing off the place’ s charms and gives some good design advice too. Watch the segment here.

Brooklyn Flea Address:
Fort Greene
176 Lafayette Avenue (between Clermont + Vanderbilt Avenue)

The Flea at One Hanson (aka Williamsburg Savings Bank)
1 Hanson Place (at Flatbush Avenue)

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When Patiences Pays Off

Amanda Bar

Deer I like weird and unusual pieces of art (or so I've been told) but so often the problem with this aesthetic is that often quirky home decorations can be quite expensive.  A Z Gallerie opened up near my city within the past year, and I love checking out all of the unusual items they offer, and I've long been eyeing a white laquer deer head that's been hanging on their wall since opening day.  Don't ask me why, but I love it!  However, I'm not so in love with the $199 price tag.

Instead of impulsively whipping out my checkbook (like I am prone to do) I held off and had my patience rewarded.  A few months ago I noticed that they offered a different deer head, smaller and made of resin, but more or less in the same exact style as the one I had been eyeing - and even better, it was only $49!  It's almost half the size of the original piece, but it fits perfectly on my wall and I love being able to save money while still keeping the initial aesthetic that I was going for.

Whether you agree with my taste in decor or not, you have to admit that I made a STAGgering decision by holding off on my rapid-fire spending habits.  (Feel free to groan at the pun - I know I did.)

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Succumbing to Impulse Shopping

Amanda Bar

The impulse fairy has struck again; that unstoppable, wallet-draining phenomenon that I have carefully been avoiding for months now.  As I’ve comfortably been settling into my new home, and as I have completed most of my major home reconstruction projects, I’ve been left to consider the smaller details around the house that I would like improved.  One of these little considerations led me to the $349 purchase that I very recently stumbled into.

I have a large amount of jewelry - not real jewelry, mind you, but fake (as long as it sparkles who cares if it’s real, am I right?).  I’ve been storing most of it in a dresser drawer, but it’s been spilling out into the rest of my room for awhile now.  I’ve long been keeping my eye out for a jewelry armoire to take care of this problem, and unfortunately I happen to have found the perfect match with a not so perfect price.

I’m sure I could have found a better deal elsewhere, which makes the money spent sting all the more, but I was there in Pier 1, they had one more left in stock, and I was overcome with that I HAVE TO HAVE IT sensation that I thought myself cured of!  Alas, it appears as though being a spendthrift is an incurable condition.  On the plus-side, I like to think that all of my careful spending has “earned” me an indulgence such as this…and I can’t deny that (beyond the price) I’m pleased with the results of my purchase.

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Beach Day

Ali Bar

Last weekend I went to the beach – a New York beach. Since fall is imminent and, unlike Miami, it actually gets cold here, I wanted to take full advantage of the still relatively warm weather. All it took was a somewhat lengthy subway ride on the A train down to Far Rockaway. As the train nears the beach, the ride becomes quite pleasant and at one point the subway car even goes over the water, setting up a strange juxtaposition. The view out the window is black, black, black and then water. It’s sort of surreal. PhotoA friend and I made the trek down to Far Rockaway and we brought food and had a nice little meal. There were clam shells scattered everywhere and we picked up a few. They’re quite large and now sit on the dining table in my apartment, holding change and all sorts of things. Of course, I didn't swim due to the ice water, but my friend found getting smacked around by the waves invigorating. All in all it was a relaxing day filled with sunshine, food, discovery, and lounging. And it only cost my subway fare there and back.

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Adding Pop to Wall Art

Amanda Bar

I was bored the other day when I decided to come up with a little art project for myself.  I have several various pictures hanging up around my house, and inside of my bedroom there is one in particular that has been bothering me -  it's a one-of-a-kind art print given to me by a friend, and I just didn't think that the plain black picture frame I had purchased for it matched up to the picture.

I headed over to Michael's, purchased a Sharpie oil-based paint marker, traced out some swirly designs with a pencil along the frame until I was satisfied, and then I went to work drawing over my pencil marks with the Sharpie.  Voila (click for full image):

Picture frame

It adds some pop to the picture, and it only cost me $3.49 (the price of the marker).  My design is rudimentary at best, I know, but if you're more skilled than I am you can come up with a bunch of neat things with which to decorate your picture frames on the cheap. 

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TV Solutions at Target

Amanda Bar

As I detailed in my previous post I had been searching various furniture stores for both DVD storage options as well as a TV stand. (P.S. - thank you, readers, for the various advice!)  My solution came from a somewhat unexpected source - my father had spotted some likely furniture over at our local Super Target.

I don't really equate Target with large pieces of furniture, but apparently the Super Targets carry a variety of living room storage pieces for relatively low prices - $179.99 for the TV stand and $99.99 for the matching bookshelf (of which I bought two).  I had been awake for close to 18 hrs, it was storming outside, and I was sick of living in a house full of boxes; maybe I could have dug around a little more and saved some money by holding out for more options, but at that point I was done with the entire mess and I decided to save myself the stress.


(Click image for the full picture) I think it looks nice, and for the total cost of $402.77 it's a set I can be quite happy with for several years to come.

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Big Furniture and Big Price Tags

Amanda Bar

Since moving in I’ve been trying to clean up the wreck that is my new house, but I’m unable to unpack several boxes because I have yet to purchase a wall unit to store my numerous DVDs, game consoles, as well as our flatscreen TV.  Naively I figured that I would be able to go out on any given weekend and simply buy an entertainment center, but silly me…those things are expensive!

I’m used to having a lot of storage, and I had no idea that the type of wall unit I am accustomed to can run so expensive.  I've searched Haverty's, Ashley Furniture, Rooms To Go, and even Ikea; all of the large entertainment centers seem to be priced at the $1000-$1200 mark, which is about twice the amount I was looking to spend.

I've browsed through Overstock.com and they seem to have more reasonable prices, but I'll have to settle for a piece that is smaller than I had originally planned.  Another option is that I can purchase a TV stand at a drastically lower price, and somewhere along the way I can buy shelving units that (hopefully) match for my DVDs.  I like the look of one cohesive entertainment unit, but for my price range it looks like I'll have to settle for second best.

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Kitchen Accomplished

Amanda Bar

The improbable occurred this weekend, and the tile installer who previously mangled my beautiful new kitchen backsplash managed to repair the damage.  I don’t know how, but he even salvaged enough of the tile that I didn’t need to order any extra (thus saving me the much needed cash).  When I last left him he was in the process of applying the grout, and once that sets for a day or two I simply wipe/clean it off with soap and water and VOILA: my kitchen is finally complete!


With this project finally over & done with I can start wrapping my head around the process of moving all of my stuff into my new home.  I can’t believe this move-in process has taken me almost 9 months, but certain house repairs (and the constant delays & setbacks that came with them) kept pushing back my plans.  Now I just have to focus on the nightmare that is sorting through, packing up, and relocating all of my odds & ends!  I don’t suppose any of my big & burly readers would be so kind as to volunteer their services for all of the heavy lifting?  Huh, huh?  (and cue the chirping crickets)


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Kitchen Design Disasters

Amanda Bar

This Tuesday I had work started on the backsplash to my kitchen, and I should have known that it wouldn't take long for disaster to strike.  When I go over to check on the progress of the job earlier today (Wednesday), I am greeted by this image:

Apparently during the night and over the course of the day the glass tile started peeling off the wall!  Even worse, several of the pieces had shattered against the granite countertop and tile floors.

Now here is the thing: the tile installer (Mike) began work on Tuesday but indicated that, due to prior arrangements, he could not continue the job until this Friday.  That means that on Tuesday he basically had time to slap some glue on the wall, attach the tile & go.  The problem is that this particular brand of tile did not come attached to a mesh - instead the tiles were affixed to a clear piece of tape and obviously he had never encountered this before, because instead of applying the non-taped side to the wall he instead glued the tape side to the wall. 

The piece of tape, might I add, is only there to keep the tiles in position until they are set in the glue, and then it's meant to be peeled off and thrown away; this is what is referred to as a "front-mount" application.  Without being secured by glue to the wall the tiles started to detach from the tape, thus leaving me with a backsplash that has to be completely removed & repaired.

Due to the amount of damage I know I'm going to have to order a couple extra sq. ft. of tile to replace the broken ones, but what this may cost me is currently unknown.  However, don't plan on me forking over any money for this shoddy installation!

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