free-basing: 10 date ideas that don’t cost a damn thing.

5 07 2011

once upon a time in the year 2000, there was a really awful movie starring jason biggs. it was the truly mediocre follow up the 90s masterpiece , clueless, and for whatever unknown reason, I TOTALLY LOVE IT.  greg kinnear! mena suvari! what’s not to love? ok, probably a lot… but if you can’t find anything else worthwhile in this pitiful little love story between small town geek with a heart of gold (baby animals!) and street smart city girl who just can’t seem to scrape up enough cash to pay for school, at least give props to the big free date scene.

picture it, dirt poor love interest (played by mena suvari) offers to take adorable protagonist (jason biggs) out on a date. but OMG, she’s DIRT POOR! didn’t she just lose her job at the strip club? how will she ever do it? lemmie break it down for you:

they start out by stealing a loaf of french bread from a bakery early in the morning (do people really just leave fresh bread on the street in the city?). paired with some coffee pilfered from a hotel continental breakfast station… breakfast! then they go to the art museum, where she has a membership.  finally, they tie it all up by sneaking into a broadway show (alan cumming in cabaret no less) at intermission.

it’s all very charming, and a little illegal, and totally unrealistic for pretty much anyone who doesn’t live in a big city. that said, i am fascinated by the concept of the free date. and i started thinking about romantic days that could be had on a budget of zero dollars. here’s everything i came up with, but for the love of god, let’s get this list going. Read the rest of this entry »





the chopping block.

19 11 2010

so after spending some time rolling around with tuesday’s therapy musings, i got to thinking about how i use shopping to ease my anxiety. any time i’m about to make a life change, or do something that is stressful to me, i make myself more comfortable by assuring that i am wearing an impeccable outfit. new job= new wardrobe every time, assuring that even if i do make more money at said job, i won’t actually ever get to see any of it.

as many of you know, i’m about to embark on yet another crazy performance opportunity in the form of the burlesque nutcracker.  generally, this would mean several hundred dollars in new lingerie and dancewear, but i’ve decided to try and fight the power. for the snowflake number, instead of getting this (which i really really want to the point where i’ve convinced myself that i NEED it), i will borrow something completely cute and serviceable from someone who was in the number last year. not mine, not perfect, but so far more painless than spending $68+ shipping on something that may or may not actually contain my boobs, and that i will likely never wear again.

well, as i’m thinking about the HUGE (and potentially) lingerie sacrifices that i’m about to make, it made me start thinking about what would happen if i lost my job or got sick and had to make some real sacrifices- what would  be the first to go?

1. as much as i hate to say it out loud, my $100 a month cell phone bill is LUDICROUS. goodbye iphone, hello virgin mobile pay as you go… could i get by with no phone at all?

2. goodybe dr. shrinkage. $300 a months for therapy is a lot. i find it hugely beneficial, but i could survive without it if it meant being able to make my mortgage payment.

3. my student loans are steadily shrinking, and i get to write off the interest every year on my taxes. but if i had to make some cuts, these guys speak the language of need based deferment, which is a blessing indeed.

4. those are the big ones (and we all know that i can’t stop paying my credit card bills- as much as i would like to), but then there’s all the little bits and pieces like neftlix ($17), my gym membership ($10), and non-specific spending money in general ($75). i don’t have cable, and i would have to be in pretty dire straits before i let anyone pry this internet connection out of my little clenched fists.

5. i can’t weed out things like medication, but i do think that if i was really proactive about it, i could axe my food budget down to $15 a week. although i might have to get over the ick factor of shopping at the save-a-lot or the dollar store. hey, at least i don’t eat meat.

still, as it turns out, i need at least $1,200 a month to get by. it’s a lot. it’s scary. it’s exactly why suze orman recommends 6 months worth of expenses in the bank for everyone.

is there anything you wouldn’t be willing to cut?





get your cake on!

29 09 2010

i don’t remember a single kid in my entire elementary school that had a peanut allergy. maybe bees (epi pens look so fucking cool when you’re 7), but not peanuts- and certainly not gluten. as a matter of fact, i lived the majority of my adult life not really even knowing what gluten is, or that people even could be allergic to it. but there it is. all of the sudden, everybody and their grandma has celiac disease or is gluten intolerant… where there were once no food allergies or sensitivities, now even walmart has a gluten free department. wacky.

i hate to conjecture as to why there has been this apparent spike in food allergies and conditions (pesticides? medications? evolutionary failure?), because it will just make me want to enclose myself in a plastic bubble (and not the sexy jake gyllenhaal kind, the creepy john travolta kind). but the fact is that gluten allergy/intolerance is a new reality that many have to deal with every day, and it totally sucks.

i fucking love gluten.  i can tear through a bread basket in the blink of an eye (no seriously, if you ever go out to dinner with me- DON’T BLINK if you have any interest in pre-show bread), so my heart goes out (way out) for anyone who can’t enjoy the glory that is starchy, glutenous goodness. that said, there are a growing number of products out on the market dedicated to our gluten repellent friends that are actually quite tasty. for example, i’m a big fan of the lucy’s brand cookies (specifically the sugar cookies). what i’m learning, is that gluten free baked goods can be totally kick ass, as long as they’re done well. unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

to add another layer of suck, gluten free shit is FUCKING EXPENSIVE. can you imagine having to spend $6 every time you wanted to buy hamburger buns? so basically, there’s not much you can eat, and what you can eat is ludicrously pricey. and then what about things like birthdays and holidays? maybe you can get some gluten free  mix or something from the whole foods, but it’s not hardly the same as having someone make you real cake or cookies from scratch.

therein lies the subject of our blog post/love letter today. cakeface contacted me about a week ago about doing a review of their startup gluten free bakery business.  now, i get contacted semi-regularly to review things on my blog, and i don’t always say yes.  what appealed to me about cakeface is the fact that they’re local, they’re vegan, and that i would get to eat cupcakes. sold! i headed on over to their website and ordered half a dozen peanut butter cupcakes, 3 blueberry scones, and 3 chocolate chip scones. the goods were delivered to my office promptly the next afternoon (they deliver to a good chunk of the southern maine area).

reason #1 to love cakeface– the people who own it are some of the best people you will ever meet. jj does the baking, simon handles the business end, and they are both ridiculously nice, charming, and completely genuine. i kind of want them to be my new best friends.  basically, you can rest assured that your cupcakes will not be made by assholes.

i decided to share the scones with the people in my office, and hoard the cupcakes for myself (well, and possibly the boyfriend).  everybody snarfed theirs down in record time, and the only complaint by one of my coworkers was “not sweet enough”.

reason #2 to love cakeface- they make smart food. as far as i’m concerned, people who who like their food overly sweetened have stupid tongues. too much high fructose corn syrup and processed snack cakes have made them unable to appreciate any flavor above and beyond twinkie level sugar shock. it’s tragic. i thought they were the best scones that i’d ever eaten (they are so not paying me for this in cupcakes or otherwise, i just thought they were kick ass scones). moist but not soggy, not too sweet, and with just a tiny bit of salty in there to make things more interesting. similarly, the cupcakes had a nice flavor balance (mildly sweet and nutty), were the perfect moist but not oily texture, and had exactly the right amount of jj’s killer peanut butter frosting (just ask the boyfriend who shoved down 3 of them in a sitting).

cakeface simon and i actually had a funny conversation today about how too much frosting can destroy a perfect cupcake experience. too much frosting for me is a clear sign that the cake portion of a cupcake can’t stand on its own. it’s showboating. excess frosting is full of lies.

reason #3 to love cakeface- they’re unpretentious. food that tastes good doesn’t need 4 inches of buttercream and a fondant daisy to make it worth eating.  my cakeface treats came neatly packed in a brown bag, simply presented, without a ganache floret in sight. oh, and they also threw in a  totally adorable bumper sticker, just because.

ok, so we’ve covered their charmingness, their taste goodingness, and their lack of showboatingness… all excellent and necessary qualities in a bakery. but what’s the bottom line on all this deliciousness?

reason #4 to love cakeface- you can afford them. i’m a girl who has (and will again) paid upwards of $5 for a single cupcake, and you might expect a company like cakeface that uses pricey ingredients like hazelnut flour and vegan sugar to be in the upper ranges of the cupcake market. not so! starting at $1.50 a cupcake, $1 a scone, and $.50 a cookie (less if you order more), you’d be lucky to get some gas station hydrox for the same price.

ok, before this lovefest carries on for too long, let me just say one thing- i know hardcore product/ pimping is not my general modus operandi, but when really good people are doing something admirable and worthwhile (and delicious)… i think they deserve a little shout out.  along with throwing down an order of your own (what’s on their order page is just a starting point- give them a call for everything from birthday cakes to alternative scone flavors), if you want to help support cakeface’s future development (they’re working on a second set of dedicated cookware so that they can also offer nut-free treats), you can also donate to their kickstarter account to help assure that their venture gets started with a real chance. after all, it’s always the right time to get your cake on.





masochist for jesus.

17 02 2010

oh lent. as a lapsed catholic who’s been lapsed for longer than she was actually ever catholic in the first place (8th grade graduation from st. mary’s in augusta was the last time i went to church and never looked back), you wouldn’t think that the whole lent deal would be my thing. maybe it’s nostalgia for my nun-riddled past (remember that time that sister anne marie’s habit fell of in 3rd grade? priceless!)? wait no, definitely not.

it’s probably just that i am always willing and excited to “accept the physical challenge“, religious or secular. lent is like a game to me, a game of self-denial and physical/emotional limits (depending on what you’re giving up), with a built in team of players to provide the necessary solidarity to make giving up something that you love for 40 days actually kind of fun.

this year, on account of my fatness, i’m giving up sugar- or rather sweet food. i’m not going to go all nuts and not eat ketchup or anything just because it has a bit of high fructose corn syrup in it. but definitely no desserts, sugar cereals, vitamin waters, crappy girl drinks ending in -tini, bank lollipops, nothin. i have high hopes for how this next 40 days will affect my physical bottom line (as in my ass- currently stuffed sausage-style into double digit pants), as well as my financial bottom line. i’m pretty sure i spend a lot of money on garbage food (ancient m&ms from the flea market vending machine!), and not so garbage food (two fat cats!). much of it/most of it on impulse. people always whine about whole foods/whole paycheck being so expensive- but obesity has a pretty price tag of its own. *UPDATE* i just accidentally spent $14 at the whole foods on gelato, snackimals, vegan buffalo wings, and little lad’s herbal corn– I’M HOPELESS!

it’s ash wednesday people, and lent starts now (or on monday for those of us who don’t want our foxwoods trip ruined by abstaining from the dessert cart at the all-you-can-eat buffet ). anyone else on board for 40 days of something-less-ness?





baking day of doom- now with less doom!

29 01 2010

well, the month of january has come to a close, as has my first official baking day month. it started out as kind of a clusterfuck, and after the vegan pulled pork disaster and the missing pizza dough, i wan’t entirely convinced that this was a lifestyle that i could happily lead. but once my portions were neatly stacked in the freezer, and i was able to steal back the little portion of my day usually reserved for food preparation, things started to feel a little less hopeless and a little more sexy. not perfect indeed, but i did learn a few very important things:

1. unthawed veggie shepherds pie takes 2 hours @ 450 to cook. if i intend to do this again, i really need to learn to thaw things out overnight, for the sake of both my stomach and my electric bill.

2. if frank’s red hot wing sauce can make my vegan pulled pork (screw you and your crappy recipe vegetarian times!) edible, then it may very well have other essential curative properties. we should look into that.

3. just because a recipe says that it serves 8, doesn’t mean that it actually does (maybe if everyone is served dinner in an egg cup).

4. this is the most delicious thing i’ve had in ages.

5. as it turns out, my faux chicken & biscuits recipe gets really bland in the freezer (who knew!). luckily, copious amounts of shredded parmesean cheese & red chile flakes (combined with my macgyveresqe culinary skills) turned it into my best batch ever.

6. i eat out way too much. just because the meals are pretty much oven ready, doesn’t mean that i won’t still find ways to be lazy about it.

7. i can make a little less. after everything, i still have 1 portion left of lasagna roll-ups, spaghetti sauce, veggie chile, sausage gravy, & mushroom gravy. although it is comforting to know that i have back up food in case of emergency.

8. trying to make my own pizza dough is a terrible idea.

9. a little dessert would have been really nice.

10. i felt extremely guilty about the ziploc & aluminum toss factor that came heavily into play this month (even if it made my freezer look real pretty). it might be nice for me to invest in some freezable (and reusable) glass baking dishes.

so yes, i’m doing it again. sunday is the day (with a hearty & coupon laden grocery shop on saturday). here’s the master plot:

2-3 portions of vegetarian meatballs
2 faux chicken pot pies
2 veggie shepherd’s pies (the biggest hit of the month)
2 double batches cheesey broccoli & potato soup
2 double batches sausage gravy
1 batch spicy green chile corn muffins
2 enchilada pies
3 batches bisquick biscuits
2 portions orange curry faux chicken & rice
1 batch cookie dough in frozen single portions (i’m thinking maybe oatmeal/walnut/chocolate chip)
1 batch chocolate lava cupcakes (if i can just choose the right recipe!)





i’m iphone famous!

20 01 2010

prepare for some serious horn tooting! i’ve done little bits and pieces of graphic design for the totally awesome local vegetarian cooking show delicious tv for about a year now, so how cool was it when they wanted me to help them design  their first iphone app! well, it’s on the market, and it was actually featured in the portland press herald this morning. woot!

veg-ez is packed full 50 great recipes & 32 videos from the show (all nicely sorted by category). what i love about the delicious tv approach, is that they’re not militant about vegetarianism/veganism. they’re not trying to convert anyone, they just want to make the concept of meatlessness more accessible to everyone. they make beautiful comfort food, accept the existence of dairy products (though they always give vegan alternatives), and are presenting their recipes in a way that can be appealing to everyone (not just the veggies).

anyway, i’m total small-time freelance non-professional graphic design dabbler, so this is kind of a huge deal for me.  i’m pretty freakin proud to be associated with something so cool.





baking day 1.0 part 2- disaster strikes!

5 01 2010

i suppose that this is just the universe’s way of shaming me for stretching my baking day into 2 days… sunday worked out so well, but last night everything fell apart.

failures:

1. my vegan pulled pork is really bland and gross (who would have thought!). thanks for nothing vegetarian times, the seitan would have been more flavorful covered in ketchup. i have attempted to salvage the batch by adding: vegetarian worcestershire, brown sugar, and spicy brown mustard. i also let the portions sit in the fridge overnight to marinate. hoping for the best. will cover in commercial bbq sauce if necessary.

2. my cornbread weighs 300 lbs. once again, screw you allrecipes. i figured that a recipe with 5 stars and 1,392 reviews couldn’t possibly go wrong.  admittedly, i should have suspected a problem when the first step was to melt 2 STICKS OF BUTTER! so dense, so sweet, so greasy. needless to say, the boyfriend loved it, but i’ll definitely be looking for a slightly less decadent recipe for the next trip around the block.

3. my mushroom gravy is too tangy. i think i put in too much cooking sherry and not enough butter.  it’s passable, but not quite right. i reduced the shit out of it and have hope that it will mellow in the freezer. if not, it can mellow in the trash can.

4. my biscuits are flat. i ran out of bisquick, so i only had enough to make one batch. also, my biscuit cutter is slightly too large. i barely got 9 sad flat biscuits out of the deal.

5. my pizza dough doesn’t exist. by around 9 pm- covered in barbecue splatter and desperately needing a cocktail, i decided to give up the ship. fuck the pizza dough! i will make it someday (next month?), but i declare baking day 1.0 officially closed!

actually, the only thing that didn’t go tits up was the spaghetti sauce.

in general, i like to approach new experiences with the “sometimes you have to do it completely wrong first, in order to figure out how to do it right” mentality. i mean, who really gets things perfect right out of the gate? and if there are people who do, those people are assholes and we hate them.

final freezer shot: