Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In the Kitchen: Baked Potato Soup Recipe

These days I don't have a ton of energy, so I've been trying to cook more meals that are simple. One of my go-to's is potato soup. It's quick, cheap, reheats well, and tastes yummy. If you'd like to make some you'll need to:
  • boil 2 medium red potatoes
After potatoes are done (check by sticking fork inside to see if they are tender), turn to low heat and:
  • add 50/50 mixture of heavy whipping cream and chicken (or vegetable) stock until potatoes are covered
  • use a masher to mash ingredients (I like to leave a lot of lumps)
  • add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp of butter
  • 1/4 tbsp of bacon grease (optional)
  • stir while the soup cooks for 5 mins.
  • when done add shredded cheddar cheese (I like Tillamook brand) and chopped green onions to taste
serving size: 1


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Worth Your Money: Ting

One of my most recent mini money goals has been to reduce our monthly telephone costs. Normally we spend around $150 a month for our cell phones through Sprint, and after thinking about it, this seemed a bit ridiculous to me. In my hunt for possible money saving solutions I came across a lovely company called TING.

Ting allows Sprint users to switch to their services free of charge, and charges a reoccurring monthly fee based upon your usage. There is no sign-up fee and no contract commitment. You can start with a plan as low as $3/month for up to 100 minutes. See all their plans HERE. What differentiates Ting from other companies is that they do not offer subsidized phones, so you have to pay out of pocket if you want a new one. By not subsidizing phones they can offer bare bones monthly rates. This works out great for a person like me who plans to use my existing phone until it dies, and then buy a used one whenever it needs to be replaced. So far, in our two months with Ting we've spent an average of $64 total for two phones, a savings of $86 a month or over $1,000 a year. Heck yeah, mission accomplished! If you would like to switch to Ting, use this LINK to sign up online and you'll receive $25 off your first bill.

“If you can, you will quickly find that the greatest rate of return you will earn is on your own personal spending.” ~Mark Cuban

Monday, June 16, 2014

Flowers in the House: June 2014

Summer is almost here, which means......hydrangea time! Hydrangeas are my favorite, they offer an instant pick me up. I planted a few in our garden last year, and am so glad I did. What's blooming in your garden? What are your almost summertime favorites?

To see more "Flowers in the House" visit SMALL BUT CHARMING.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sale Alert: Lake Walker Yard Sale

If you live in the area, be sure to stop by the Lake Walker Community Yard Sale. You're sure to find some great deals :-) It starts tomorrow at 9am.

Sale Alert: Baltimore Free Store

What's better than a huge discount? You guessed it.......free! As the name implies, that's exactly what the BALTIMORE FREE STORE is, completely free. If you haven't heard of it before, the Free Store is a volunteer run pop-up shop that accepts donations of goods, and distributes them to anyone who wants them absolutely free. Stop by to drop off some of your things you no longer need, and shop around for a free thing or two. The shop will be open this Saturday from 10am-3pm at Northside Baptist Church, 1100 E. Northern Parkway.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Moving from DC to Baltimore

(Home in leafy Baltimore neighborhood)

If you would've asked me 10 years ago would I ever live in Baltimore, I would've told you heck no! It's funny how life throws you curve balls. It's been three years since I moved from DC to Baltimore, and so far Charm City isn't so bad. Due to astronomical housing prices I know many a folk who've considered making the same move up to B'more, so I'm gonna breakdown for you a few reasons why you should do it.

1) Housing prices, duh! It costs too much to live in DC, and as a young person you'd like to be able to foresee yourself owning a home one day, and I mean a real home, none of that $350k for a lackluster condo crap. In B'more you can get a nice 3 bedroom renovated home in a good neighborhood for under $250k, and for $350-400k, my goodness, you can live like the Cosbys.

2) The food. DC food tastes like crap! Sorry Washingtonians, but it's the truth. Your city has many great things to offer, but food ain't one of em'. Baltimore on the other hand, has several finger lickin' good establishments. Just typing this has got me feenin' for some GYPSY QUEEN! (More on Gypsy Queen in a later post, for now just know they make the BEST crabcake known to man.)

3) Diversity in housing stock and neighborhoods. One of the things I like most about B'more is it's architectural diversity. It's got cute little craftsman bungalows, awesome victorian brownstones, fabulous Dutch colonials, and vintage tudors just to name a few. Can you believe all these cuties are in one city?

(Guilford neighborhood)

 (Lake Walker Neighborhood)

(Cedarcroft neighborhood)

(Keswick neighborhood)

(Evergreen neighborhood)

(Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood)

(Bolton Hill neighborhood)

(Homeland Neighborhood)

4) Baltimore is on the come-up. When many outsiders hear the word Baltimore, the first thing they think of is The Wire. While it's true there are some very impoverished, neglected, and crime ridden parts of the city, that's not the whole face of the town. There has been a newfound appreciation for all the city has to offer as of late, and for the first time in decades Baltimore saw it's population increase. At the same time there's been a crazy number of developer home renovations going on, that have been bringing older Baltimore homes back to their former glory. You better hurry and buy-in while prices are still affordable! 

5) You want to retire one day. The cost of living is so high in DC on more than one occasion I've heard young people say their retirement strategy is death. This is sad people. I know DC is a lovely city, but it's nothing to kill yourself over. Not only are housing prices lower in Baltimore, but so are other big expenses like daycare, which means if you spend your money right you can retire one day with plenty of life left to live.

7) Stunning gardens. Spring time is absolutely beautiful in many parts of Baltimore. Residents in many neighborhoods take their gardening serious, and it shows. When May comes around, scenes around the city are simply breath taking.

8) Close proximity to great cities. Baltimore is close to several great places. You can get to NYC in 3.5 hours, Annapolis in 30 minutes, Philly in 1.5 hours,  St. Michaels in 1.5 hours, and DC in 1 hour when you need to.

(Annapolis waterfront)

So if you're a stressed out Washingtonian wondering how you're gonna financially survive, think about making a move to Baltimore.

"Your city does not impose a cost of living upon you. You get to choose both the city in which you live, and how much you spend once you get there." ~Mr. Money Mustache

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In the Kitchen: Lamb Chops Recipe

The hubs had a birthday the other day and I spoiled him by cooking one of his favorite dishes, lamb chops. These are packed with flavor and very easy to make, so I'm passing along the recipe to you. To recreate you'll need to:
  • Cover lamb chops on both sides with moderate equal parts seasoning of rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, garlic powder, all purpose seasoning, and cayenne (only a dash of cayenne, unless you like spicy)
  • Drizzle small amount of olive oil and worcestershire sauce over lamb chops, cover in a dish and let marinade in refrigerator for at least 4 hours (I like to marinade for 24 hours)
  • Remove chops from refrigerator and cook on medium to low heat until brown 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Around (Another) Town: Our Trip to Charleston

After leaving San Francisco, the hubs and I headed to Charleston for a quick getaway. This was my first time in the city and I must say it was gorgeous. 

Our first stop was to MAGNOLIA PLANTATION, a site with much to offer. While there we ate at the aptly titled Peacock Cafe and ran into this beauty.

A few more steps away was this stunning image, even more beautiful in person.

Next to the cafe is a very nice petting zoo with all sorts of animals. A great place for children and adults alike. They have ducks, goats, roosters, bunnies, and more.

After that we took the plantation's guided nature tour, which was fantastic. It offers close-up tours of their swamp. The swamplands are featured in many of John James Audubon's paintings. You can see close-ups of gorgeous flocks of birds including magnificent Blue Herons. 

But watch out because there are also snakes and alligators!

Along with beautifully mature Virginia Oak trees.

We also toured the main house, which was an excellent tour. Sorry, but they wouldn't let me take interior pics :-( If you get down to the area and enjoy period furniture and architecture, definitely take a look, and be sure to visit the first floor gift shop.

The property features some impressive gardens that one of the old owners had planted for his wife.

While in town we stayed at the CHARLESTON PLACE HOTEL

The accommodations are quite nice, and give you a nice dose of southern decor.

The hotel's bar the THOROUGHBRED CLUB offers the best meal I've eaten this year.

I highly recommend their fried oysters with caviar and spinach cream sauce, along with their braised beef panini. Both are excellent and very reasonably priced.

One of my favorite things about the city was its' historic architecture. Here are a few of the homes we passed by. Notice they take their porches very seriously here.

And for me a trip would not be complete without a visit to a local thrift store, so I stopped in SC THRIFT STORE. I'm glad I did because the owner was a pleasure to chat with and they offered tons of awesome costume jewelry.

I picked up these items for $50, which isn't too bad.

Well that's the end of our trip. It was a great time. Be sure to see for yourself what Charleston has to offer if you can.