Friday, December 28, 2007

Leftovers Are a Busy Mom's Friend and They Can Be Your Friend Too

Yesterday evening I rounded up all the leftovers in the hopes of creating something that would use them all up without leaving any leftovers (except enough for Jim to take for lunch) of the new creation. (No matter how delicious anything is, it loses appeal when eaten three days in a row.) For any of you who are still eeky about combining leftovers, here's the technique I used.

I started by chopping the leftover pasta with sauce and egggplant into small, almost unrecognizable, pieces. Next I tore up the leftover bits of Easy No-Knead Crusty Bread into small pieces about the size of croutons and threw them in with the pasta mix. The remaining stuffing was next in the bowl (there wasn't a crumb of gluten roast left to add). The chickpea roll was crumbled, which broke my heart since the pastry shell had held together so well during cooking and serving, and added to the bowl.

I took a moment to mix this all together because the next two additions required tasting before actually adding them. I wasn't sure if the leftover chickpea and olive spread flavor would meld or clash with everything else. The easiest way to check this is to take a taste. I put a bit of the mix on a spoon and then added a bit of spread to it and tried it. It wasn't bad at all, so in it went. After mixing this around, I repeated the same tasting process with the leftover gravy. This also went well with the rest of the mixture so into the bowl it went.

Somewhere along the way, I had decided that this would become a loaf. To bind it together, I added in some flaxseed meal and a bit of water. I pressed the mixture into an 8"x8" pan and baked it at 375 degrees for about an hour. (I might have used a higher oven temperature and a shorter cooking time, but I had to run to the train station and I didn't want anything to burn.)

I've often said that serving something utilitarian like this loaf is best when paired with something fun. In keeping with that philosophy, I made baked French fries to accompany it. I also made a miso soup with shredded carrots and the last of the leeks. I love to have soup with meals this time of year.

I did wind up with just enough leftovers of last night's dinner for Jim's lunch today. For those of you wondering about proportions, interestingly, we ended up with almost equal amounts of leftovers of each of these things I used. Now the only remnants of Christmas left in the fridge are some winter squash puree (which will be used in muffins and pancakes this weekend) and some pumpkin pie (which probably won't last much past lunch time).

It seems I'm not the only one who views leftovers as ingredients. Omnivore readers will enjoy Melanie's post on the same topic.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thoughts on the New Year

It's that time of year when we look back on what we have accomplished and what we haven't. It's time to make a plan for the next year. Whether you call them resolutions or goals, now is the time to start thinking about them.

There are a lot of craft projects that I'd like to tackle this year. I'm anxious to do more sewing projects. If I can just muster up the nerve to make the yoga pants I bought the pattern for. You'd think replacing that zipper would have given me a bit more confidence but making clothes just scares me! (I still find it hard to believe that I made the skirt that I wore for my high school graduation.) I'm also excited about giving tote bag making a try.

Then of course there are the "orders" my family has placed, a pair of knitted leg warmers, a knitted blanket using yarn leftovers (I"m going to try that log cabin pattern) and a denim quilt for each daughter. It seems they've moved past my homemade creations being uncool. Now they want theirs!

Another goal I have is to include more pictures of my projects on my blog. I love the pictures everyone else has. Now I just need to get the tutorial from my daughter again!

Of course there are a myriad of goals surrounding my fledgling yoga career but more on those another time. I'm off to make cookies with the boys. BTW, crushed candy canes make a nice addition to chocolate chip cookies.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Spreading Animal Friendly Cuisine, One Muffin at a Time!

I must have been out of my mind when I agreed to teach three classes in a row the morning after Christmas. Waking up this morning to drive Jim to the train at 5:40am, I felt as though I had already had quite a workout after all the cooking and entertaining of the last few days. (I even went so far as to crawl back into bed once I got home from the train station.)

Now that the three classes are behind me, I've had some time to reflect on this years holiday experience. Overall, it was a good holiday. The gifts were well matched to the recipients (I don't just mean mine, I mean everyone who gave a gift.) My sister even liked the Complete Tightwad Gazette! Everyone, even the kids, were happy getting well thought out gifts rather than mountains of stuff.

Since teenage girls are so difficult to shop for, my daughters find themselves in possesion of quite a bit of shopping money from our extended family. We're planning a trip to Plato's Closet this weekend. It sounds too good to be true but we shall see.

As always, food was a huge part of the last two days. Here's what I made with links to the recipes whenever possible. I am well aware that there is a huge amount of food on the list below but I like to think of the holidays as a huge vegan outreach program. I make yummy food. You taste yummy food. I give you some yummy food to take home. Next thing you know, you're asking me for the recipe for the yummy food and viola, you've added a vegan meal to your repertiore with no brow beating or diatribes on either of our parts. I'm spreading animal friendly cuisine one muffin at a time!

Gaia's Chickpea Roll

Baked Gluten with Stuffing and gravy- this was my own creation combining the ever popular Seitan O'Greatness recipe with pre-packaged vegan stuffing and shredded carrots, diced celeriac and leeks. I baked the whole thing together in a huge roasting pan with a lid. We served it with gravy on the side. This was amazing! (And no one asked about the missing Tofurky!)

Pasta with Tomato sauce and eggplant

Easy No-Knead Crusty Bread served with Olive & Chickpea spread

Amazingly Delicious Crustless Pumpkin Pie (I can't remember who's blog or website I got this from so if anyone knows, send me the link and I'll post it.)

Coconut Custard Pie from How it All Vegan

Banana Bread from the Compassionate Cook

Pumpkin Muffins with Currants and Walnuts from Vegan with a Vengeance

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's Your Holiday Motivation

There are moments when you realize the plans you've made aren't going to work. I had one of those moments this weekend when I sat down to make ornaments with the boys. The dinosaur ornament kit I'd planned to use was too complicated for them to do, especially with the pre-Christmas jittery-wiggly-pants they both had. Time for plan B, except I really didn't have a plan B.

For me, there is a certain stubbornness that goes along with my frugality. Its part "no, damn it, I can find a way to do this" and part "f---you" (not a very Christmassy admission but its true). My mother lovingly called this quality of mine "motivation" when I was a teen. (Once again I say, sorry Mom!) Whatever you want to call it, it gets me into sticky situations every now and again but it also helps me bail out of the same situations too.

No matter how down to the wire I find myself, I will not make/give/buy crap. Function ranks pretty high on my list of things I look for in a gift, even when planning ones my kids will give. An ornament is a good gift from a child because it has a purpose and a place to go. Its also small and takes up very little additional space.

Once the original ornament idea fell through, I went for a dig in the craft closet and discovered a stash of potholders that date back to a holiday project several years ago. In my opinion, potholders are another good gift because I frequently ruin mine and I suspect strongly that I'm not the only one. (Honestly, who hasn't turned the stove on with a potholder on the burner or dropped on on the oven element while taking something out?)

A little more digging revealed green, black, blue, red and purple fabric paint, as well as, 3 unpainted, wooden Christmas tree ornaments. The boys looked at me with anticipation and I dove right in. (Who says improv is reserved for late nights in smoky dive bars?)

Rob was assigned to draw wreaths on seven of the pot holders and Christmas trees on the other seven. Kyle was in charge of painting the trees and wreaths green. While Kyle did this, Rob began painting the wooden ornaments. Once the ornaments dried, Rob added blobs of glue which we sprinkled with glitter to make balls. (If you have several colors of glitter like we did, only put a few glue blobs down at a time and sprinkle them with glitter. Repeat this with each color of glitter and you can create different colored balls.)

Kyle added different colored balls (or maybe they were lights) to each of his wreaths/trees using the other fabric paints. We did this one color at a time as well. It seems to keep the mess down to a minimum. I helped by adding painted bows to the wreaths but Kyle put the stars on the trees. Rob also made a beaded Christmas tree pin that was a real pain in the tush to do. It was a joy to see both boys so deep in their projects. They worked hard and were rightfully proud of the results. Their efforts made the whole process fun for me. This morning, now that everything is dry, my little artists will sign their work.

The point of this post is not to brag about how creative I am (I'm not!)or how saintly my kids are(they're not!). The point that I take away from this is, if a child, the same ones that all the commercials on tv are marketed to, can feel the joy of creating and giving simple gifts from the heart, then shouldn't we as adults be able to do the same?

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to All!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ashes, Ashes, We Don't Fall Down?

Aside from the supposed black plague reference , which seems to be an urban legend, it seems there is another untruth in the actual words to Ring Around the Rosie, at least the ashes, ashes, we all fall down part.

It was my neighbor who brought it to my attention when he asked if I had any extra ashes from our wood stove. (Let's see, we're heating almost exclusively with wood. Yeah, I think I do!) Jim brought out a big bucketful and watched as he sprinkled them over his path and driveway for traction in the icy mess Mother Nature left us. Curious, Jim sprinkled some on the iciest part of our path. The results were amazing.

I did some internet searching and discovered these references to this use of wood ashes as well.

Thrifty Fun

Google Book Search

Symptico at MSN (look under the section titled Be Ready For Trouble)

Mother Earth News (check in the comments)

So it seems that if we use ashes, ashes, we will not fall down! We'll also do less harm to the environment, save money and not bother our pets feet. Just remember to wipe your feet well so you don't track wood ash into your home.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lumping Leftovers Together

Frugal living means looking at every meal as a potential ingredient for another meal. I hadn't realized how efficient I had become at this until I went away for a week and came back to discover a fridge full of leftovers. The obvious solution to leftovers is to use them as lunches. However, if you've had something for dinner and then for lunch the next day, do you want to be able to recognize it in that night's dinner? Probably not.

Here's an example of how it works at our house. One night last week I made chili. The next night I made a gluten stew. The following night I combined the leftovers of both and added acorn squash and some spices to create an entirely new entree that we served with quinoa. There were no leftovers of this. That's one of the goals.

The important thing to remember is, make sure you're combining flavors that will blend well. When I'm not sure about this, I've been known to take a little bit of each on a spoon and taste it.

If you begin to think of leftovers as the base of your next recipe, you'll discover two things. First, you'll get your leftovers under control. Second, you're cooking time is likely to decrease a bit. If you're keeping track, you might even discover your food bill going down, especially if you routinely through out leftovers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Living Room Redux & Holiday Thoughts

We spent this past weekend moving furniture around. It all started with me coming back from my yoga training in NYC and announcing that I wanted to clear out a room in the basement to use as a yoga studio, albeit a very small yoga studio. Fortunately, Jim is a patient man!

But wait you might be shouting, I thought you had cleaned out your computer room for the same purpose. Its true, I did try this but its a very small space. Its ideal for just me or me and Kyle but not more than that. Plus, the cat box ended up in the corner of the room. Just for the record, kitty poo is not condusive to yogic peace. (Like the dog suddenly needing attention when I practice yoga, the cat suddenly needs to poop.)

We managed to create a whole new look for the living room by ecycling our couch and recliner, moving chairs and a futon from downstairs upstairs, staining the futon frame (which we meant to do 8 1/2 years ago) and buying a new futon cover. In the process we cleared out the basement room. Interestingly, we now have more seating in the living room with a less cluttered look because the "new" furniture is smaller.

There's always a moment during these big events where I freeze mentally and wonder if I'm screwing everything up. It usually occurs when it's too late to change paths, like when the ecyclers had loaded the couch and recliner into the back of their truck. Then, that feeling of angst in my gut propels me through the rest of the job at hand. I wonder how many times people are paralyzed into inactivity because of this same cycle of feelings? It can be hard to go against popular culture (ie, why don't you just buy new furniture?) but everytime you do, it gets a little easier. This is probably why, with Christmas barely a week away, I can't get stressed at all. I'm still knitting at my usual pace and enjoying the process immensely.

For anyone who's still feeling the stress of the holiday shopping pressure, I suggest you refer to the Complete Tightwad Gazette where Amy Dacyzyn talks about whether or not kids need new toys (page 664). Let's forget the stress on monetary amounts and get back to "its the thought that counts!" Stop letting the advertisers steal your holiday joy! (For that matter, don't let anyone steal your holiday joy. Go stand out on your porch and sing a rousing chorus of "I Did It My Way" if you need to.)

Rhonda Jean over at Down to Earth had a great post on holiday giving yesterday. Its far more eloquent than my rantings.

Here's a simple pleasure we discovered over the weekend, Scrambled Eggless Eggs from How it All Vegan. Its a simple but tasty recipe. I added some chopped veggies and a little tvp to soak up some of the excess liquid. I did garnish it with the gamashio as suggested and it was delicious!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Shameless Bit of Self Promotion

I confess, I entered the Just Start Grant Contest. Entrants were allowed 250 words to explain their small business plan/goals. To see mine, just click on the link on the upper left side of my blog. Voting by the public will help determine the winners, so go check out my entry and if you like it, tell your friends to check it out too!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

He's Got a Ticket to Ride

The snow hasn't started yet but school is already cancelled for the day. Jim opted to take the train/bus to work to avoid the nightmare of commuting home in a blizzard. In fact, Jim's decided to take the train/bus for all of January, February and possibly March.

Aside from not commuting in crummy weather, it also decreases his carbon footprint and, we've just discovered, it cuts his commuting expenses as well. The county bus company near his job offers a combined bus/rail ticket deal on monthly passes that saves quite a bit. (This wasn't very well advertised. He only knew because he got the heads up from a coworker.)

Since I drive Jim to the station, an unintended perk is that I can drive Jim's little buggy which gets 38-40 mpg rather than mine which gets 20-28 mpg. Jim's return train gets in at the same time that swim team/swimming lessons for the boys begins and the station is only 2 minutes from the Y. That certainly is convenient.

The only down side is, this mode of transportation adds time to his already ridiculous commute. The time is fast approaching for a change to be made. This is a thought we keep returning to.

A snow day is the perfect day for some holiday projects with the kids. I think we'll give those dinosaur ornaments a try. Here's a simple knitting project I plan to try for my little nephews.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Oatmeal Outrage

There can be a great deal of truth to the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Around our house, this is particularly true when dealing with food. Yesterday I fiddled where I shouldn't have. Here's my confession.

Bless me father for I have sinned, I tinkered with the oatmeal yesterday. Instead of just making steel cut oats which everyone likes, I added in some amaranth in an attempt to use it up. The result was less than stellar. My penance? Figuring out what to do with four cups of unappetizing goo. (Frugality prevents me from just throwing food out and I'm pretty sure even the dogs wouldn't have touched this.)

Salvation came in the form of the Use it All cookbook by Jane Marsh Dieckmann. This cookbook is set up in alphabetical order by ingredient. I peeked under "cereals" and was rewarded with the recipe for Hearty Breakfast Bread. I veganized it and here's my version:

Hearty Breakfast Bread
leftover cooked cereal (up to 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1 1/2 Tbs dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 Tbs blackstrap molasses
1/4 canola oil
1 tsp salt
8-9 cups whole wheat bread flour

Combine leftover cereal with soymilk and blend well. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the remaining wet ingredients to the cereal mixture. Pour in yeast mixture. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the yeast to bubble a bit. Add in the salt and half of the flour and mix well. Add in remaining flour 1 cup at a time, until dough is no longer sticky.

Knead about 10 minutes (especially if you're using whole wheat flour, if you use a combination of white and whole wheat you can knead a bit less.)
Cover and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled. Divide into 3 loaves and place in greased pans. Cover and let rise another hour or until doubled. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

The resulting loaves made great toast and bore little resemblance to the mess that had been breakfast. BTW, I still think Barbara's whole wheat bread recipe is the best tasting, most versatile home made whole wheat bread.

The thing about the amaranth is, I can't find a good use for it! We used to buy amaranth cookies and amaranth cereal which everyone loved. So, I happily got amaranth last time it was on sale at the coop. I used it in a granola recipe and everyone hated it. I ground it into flour and tried adding a bit to some quick bread recipes everyone complained about the taste. Adding it to hot cereal obviously wasn't a hit either. So my quest for a recipe to use the excess amaranth continues. In the interim, I'll keep sneaking a little into pancake batter. Shh, don't tell!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pants, They Aren't Just for Wearing Anymore!

The thing about living frugally is, you just don't look at the world the same way you once did. Everything you would have thrown out or donated in the past gets a second look. Every jar is a potential container or glass or scoop or... Every outgrown or unfashionable piece of clothing is a potential rug or quilt or tote bag or...

This past weekend we were given two lovely pairs of pants that were too big for any of us. My daughter's friend makes tote bags out of jeans keeping the top portion relatively intact. If a 15 year old can do it, so can I. I'm on the lookout for a pattern/instructions for something like that, so if you have a link, please share it. I did stumble across this tutorial for a lovely tote bag.

Personally, I think I'm aiming to make two grocery totes out of them. That means my design will be open on top (no zipper), although a zippered inside pocket could be really handy. I don't think this will be completed in time for Christmas but I know someone with a January birthday who would appreciate it. Come to think of it, I know someone with an April birthday who would too!

I think a DIY lifestyle is addictive! This is precisely why time is more important to frugal living than money. Now go and create something wonderful!

Monday, December 10, 2007

What's Under Your Tree?

Apparently, Mondays mean 2-hour school delays here in NY. This is the second Monday in a row that this has happened!

Now that the kids are all at school, I plan to spend the rest of the day knitting and organizing the gifts I've already completed. This will help me find any holes in my planning and leave enough time to fill them in.

Many people I encounter view handmade presents as either "work" or "almost as good as store bought" or both. I really hate the perception that hand made is somehow inferior to store bought. Wasn't there a time, not so very long ago, when the comparisions ran the other way? As to it being work, if it is, then it is a joyful toil. I pick my projects with the recipient in mind, trying to match up the gift with their personality. Its a challenge that I enjoy very much.

In many ways, I think the availability of low cost products has ruined the holidays for us. As givers, we no longer invest the time to spend with the recipients of our gifts. Instead, we buy and give lots of "stuff" as we scurry on to our next commitment. As recipients, we no longer readily appreciate the time and effort put into a gift whether hand made or hand picked. I believe we are guilty on both sides of the equation.

I challenge everyone to slow down and look at their holiday giving/recieving style. What changes do you want to make this holiday season? Would a box of home made cookies be a more meaningful gift than what you had originally planned? Could giving less "things" really mean more to the people on your list?

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Jacket Project is All Zipped Up!

I finished putting the new zipper in the jacket! I can't believe it actually works. I find it hard to explain what a rush it was to get this completed. Go out and tackle a project you thought you might not succeed at and you too can feel this rush.

Now I'm off to start another hat!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sew, Stitch and Simmer

My dogs are having some kind of world class wrestling match in the living room. They are so goofy. My brother calls it "zoomies" when his dog does her version of this game which basically involves lapping the living room at top speed while periodically and randomly jumping on the furniture without changing speed. Its hysterical to watch although you don't want to get banged into by a dog performing "zoomies". It hurts!

Last night I just about finished another hat (two rows to go.) I found some really cute ornament kits at the thrift store yesterday for only $.50 to do with the boys. How can you go wrong with dinosaurs wearing Christmas hats? The boys wanted to know if they really had to give them away?

In other frugal news, I'm replacing my first zipper in a winter jacket. Its tedious but rewarding. I feel like I'd be able to go much more quickly if I ever had to do it again. Jim got a really heavy winter jacket for work this past summer at a yard sale. The second time he wore it the zipper pull completely broke off. I harvested the zipper from his worn out winter jacket to replace the broken one. Just to make sure I was on the right track, before I started I read the section on replacing a zipper in the Complete Tightwad Gazette.

I still need to pin the second side and do my basting before I can machine sew the jacket back together. Fingers crossed and positive thoughts in my head, I should be able to finish it tonight or tomorrow at the latest. The thing that gave me the courage to try replacing the zipper was, even if I failed miserably nothing had been wasted. I wasn't taking a functional jacket and ruining it. I was taking two non-functional jackets and making one (hopefully) functional one out of them. The only expense was matching thread for the finishing work, under $2.00.

In frugal food news, I made cream of celery soup last night. I still had a lot of celeriac and some celery in the fridge so it seemed like a good idea. I used the recipe in a regular cookbook as a guide. I sauteed the celeriac, celery and a potato. Then I added dill, onion powder, nutritional yeast and a little seasoned salt. I covered this with water and cooked until the veggies were soft. I cheated and used the pressure cooker to do this quickly. Then I pureed the veggies and pureed silken tofu into the broth. It came out pretty well, although I should have pureed it a bit more since some of the celery strings were still evident. Overall it seemed like a great use of celeriac.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas is for Giving

Its time for me to really start finalizing Chirstmas gift giving plans. I'm going with a knitted theme this year. (Gee, who saw that coming???) So far, I've got hats completed for 3 people (almost four actually) and matching scarves for 2 of those hats. There are also 2 scarves completed for hats yet to be made. That leaves 5 hats and 3 scarves to go. I also have to make 2 pairs of leg warmers (by request of course, having lived through the 80's once I can't imagine why you'd want to revisit that fashion faux pas!) I can do it!!

I have to confess, I am way too thrilled with my newfound ability to knit hats on circular needles. In fact, I'm just way too fond of circular needles in general. Ok, let me further confess that I enjoy knitting far more than I ever anticipated. Hi, my name is Katie and I'm a knitting addict.

Since switching to grab bag giving with my siblings, I have only one sister to shop for. We don't include our parents in this. They put up with us during the teen years, they've clearly earned a Christmas present from each of us! Nieces and nephews aren't included in the grab bag either. Each year we try to have the kids come up with a gift they make themselves to give to their aunts, uncles and granparents. I'll be brainstorming with the kids over the next few days to come up with this year's gift.

The flaw with my hat knitting addiction is the sibling I drew in the grab bag lives in Arizona! There's not much call for winter hats out there so I think I'll be making some knitted dish cloths for her. I love the Complete Tightwad Gazette so much, that I'd also love to get her a copy (Overstock has them for $14.83 with free shipping) but I'm not sure if it would offend her. I'm torn, its got so much info that would benefit her. I'd love to hear what others think about this.

BTW Isa fans, Veganomicon is selling on Overstock for $17.24 with free shipping.

One final thought for today. When I reread posts written this time last year, I am so grateful to be done with that chapter of my life. Managing the gym sucked the life out of me and affected everyone in my family. I had little free time to enjoy the holiday preparation and as a result I bought more to make up for it. This year, we have less money coming in and yet we don't feel the pinch at all because I can really devote myself to the frugal lifestyle. The best part is we are all happier because of it (even the grumpy teenagers!)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Who Killed the Electric Car? ***UPDATE***

Last night Jim and I watched Who Killed the Electric Car? What an interesting and upsetting movie. It seems unthinkable that a functional, greener technology was systematically rounded up and destroyed. It seems big oil has its tentacles in so many places. That having been said, I liked the way the movie showed everyone's culpability. Its a must see. (BTW, so is Supersize Me, although I can't seem to link into the official website anymore???)

My personal reliance on cars really bugs me. It gives me the itch to move to a place that's designed for pedestrian living. A place where things aren't sprawled far and wide. At the same time, I have no use for the high cost and affluence (or perception of affluence) of NYC. The wheels in my head are turning...

I forgot to mention, I did do some "cooking" in NYC. I made a variation on the Date Nut Pop'ems. They are so easy to make. Its a no bake recipe which was perfect to make in our tiny hotel room. Its not a very exact recipe but here it is:

about 1 cup cashew nut butter (I used unsalted)
about 6 - 8 date rolls (these are the dates that are already pitted and rolled in coconut, you find them at natural food stores)
about 3/4 cup of chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)

Put the cashew butter and the date rolls in a bowl and let them sit at room temp for about 15 minutes. Then mash them together, I used a fork for this. Once they are well combined pour in the chocolate chips, mix together and shape into a log. Break off pieces and roll into balls. Place these in the fridge and serve cold.

We ate these in the hotel and on the train ride home. Yum!! I also had enough to give to my family when they met me at the train station. It was the best souvenir a mom could bring home!

In my opinion the links section of the Who Killed the Electric Car website was a little challenging to find. To help rectify that, I linked directly to it above and here are a few of the links to get you started.

Plug-In Partners

Plug In America


Monday, December 03, 2007

NYC on the Cheap

It's amazing how quickly you get right back into things once you get home. Although I haven't gotten into laundry yet and boy do I need to! We've got our first delayed opening of the season for schools in our area. Its a welcome treat that's allowing me to just ease into the week. I thought I'd share a little more of how we kept costs down in the big city this past week.

First of all, I wound up sharing a room with a friend who had taken the first class with me over the summer. (Her mom recommended the hotel we stayed at.) The cost of the hotel included a continental breakfast each morning, coffee or tea, fruit or juice, and pastry or bagel. It was also in walking distance to the yoga studio which meant no transportation costs. The room also had a fridge which allowed us to do a little grocery shopping so we could pack a lunch and snacks each day.

Of course you couldn't go to NYC without checking out some veggie restaurants! We ate at Natural Village on Greenwich Ave and Integral Yoga Institutes Natural Food Store. We also had really good luck at the Westside Market. It had a nice mix of vegetarian and vegan options. There was a really cute diner with really nice service and a great veggie burger, somewhere in the vicinity of West 17th and 6th Avenue. We ate there on our first night but were so delerious with exhaustion that I couldn't tell you the name of it.

If you want to look at the best aspect of spending a week in NYC, it was the fact that we could walk everywhere. Our only transportation costs were train tickets and cab fare to and from Grand Central.

The worst aspects, aside from being away from my family, were the high cost of things, particularly foods, and our limited kitchen.

As with so many things when you want to live frugally, planning is everything. I'm breathing a sigh of relief that I alotted myself enough cash to get through this entire experience, even the hotel bill!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I'm Back!

I've just gotten back from a week of Advanced Level 1 Yoga for the Special Child training at the Integral Yoga Institute in NYC. Considering the cost of spending time in the big city, I think I did a pretty good job keeping it frugal.

I shared a room with a friend at the Chelsea Inn. Total cost for accomodations for 5 nights, $432, meals, $77 (we had to check out a few veggie restaurants!), supplies ($45), and transportation ($38).

It was an amazing training but now its time to reconnect with my family. I'll give a more detailed rundown soon.