Monday, August 23, 2010

On Seeing | Guest Post from Becky of Beltline Bike Shop

There is something amazing happening in one Southwest Atlanta neighborhood, and this is just glimpse of the whole inspiring story.   You can read more about Beltline Bike Shop here, and you can donate here.  The Frugal Hostess can see the future, and you are really going to want to donate.



On Seeing | By Becky O'Mara

This summer, Tim began working with one of the kiddos on his reading. This 8-year-old that is around the house a lot was going to summer school. Half of our neighborhood was going to summer school. At some point, the offer came up that if he read an entire book, he could get an upgrade for his bike. He accepted and it was on.

It took several weeks to get through the book. This young boy is going into the 4th grade, by is probably on a first grade reading level. It was a second grade reading level book, but it seemed like we were stopping on every other word. Pretty soon reading time was supplemented with phonics lessons. We did a chapter each day he came by. The latter chapters were better than the first few! And his confidence was growing.

In the process, as Tim would watch him squint at the pages of the book, it became apparent that he couldn’t really see the words on the page. ‘Are the words blurry?’ Tim asked. The boy answered Yes…. and said that he used to have glasses. but they broke. His mom never got them fixed.

We talked to mom immediately, telling her that he really needed glasses. The summer went by and they just never got to it… finally, the first week of school, Tim and I went over together and said we would take them to get glasses. It was arranged and Tim took the family last Friday afternoon.

They are on Medicaid, so the examination was free. The glasses would also be free, but because it was Medicaid, it would take 6 weeks for them to come in. Because that makes sense?? Tim and the family decided they could not wait that  long, so they would buy a pair that would only take a week. The glasses would cost $80 at the local eyeglass shop.

Mom did not have the money, so the boy and his brother agreed to cut lawns to earn the money. Tim had lined up from several neighbors/landlords, so it worked out great. They came home that afternoon after the eye exam and got to work right away. Their loan is now completely paid off!

Our little guy now has glasses. The victory is not complete yet… we have to make sure he wears them all the time. (He REALLY needs them.) He came over today without them on. He is of course getting teased at school, but we think the neighborhood is a safe place (because anyone who makes fun of him will get in trouble from Mr. Tim if they do.) We just have to keep encouraging him to wear them. In the process, we’ve realized his older brother also really needs glasses, but is embarrassed to wear them. He’s a teenager and if his eyesight is as bad as his younger brother’s, we don’t know how he is functioning in school. That’s a challenge for another day. It makes me think, though, how many kids/teenagers/adults in our neighborhood genuninely can’t see, but do not wear glasses because of fear of rejection or humiliation, or because they just “can’t get to the store.”

Here is the moral of this story.

This family just needed someone to walk alongside them in this challenge. We can judge, say it’s irresponsible parenting for not getting a boy glasses, and that there are no excuses for that. But we all have areas in our lives where, for whatever reason, we are paralyzed. At times, we all need someone to walk alongside us, helping us make the right choices, and getting to the finish line.

Here’s the question: Who are you walking alongside? Do you know people well enough to know what they need encouragement in? This principle is not just applicable in the ‘hood. It’s in every neighborhood, every community, at every income level. Every one of us holds a unique power in making the world a better place in this way, if we will merely take the time to see.

[See?  Told ya.  Donate here.  There's also a list of tools and supplies they need here.]

photo by bgottsab
This week's posts will be dedicated to "small batch" change-makers.  Like the O'Maras and their Beltline Bike Shop, there are all kinds of people making real change in their neighborhoods and communities, one day at a time.  If you know someone who is giving their love and labor instead of their platitudes and punditry, The Frugal Hostess would appreciate a head's up at frugalhostess @ gmail.com. 
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Winners. Also, What's Wrong with the Giveaways?

The Frugal Hostess was surprised to see that only four people entered the cocktail books giveaway last week.  Seriously, while she doubts their sanity every day, more than four people read this blog, at least sometimes.  So why didn't more people enter?
Here are some theories:

1.  Crappy prize?  
2.  No deadline listed (TFH always forgets that!).
3.  Too much money/free stuff on your hands?

If you would, please help FruHo by letting her know what would make giveaways more exciting.  The cook books are coming in fast and furious, and there's no way she can hoard them all for herself.

Meanwhile, EVERYONE WINS!!!  That's right - all four of your who entered the cocktail books giveaway win.  Please send your mailing address to frugalhostess @ gmail.com to claim your prizes.

The Frugal Hostess insists that you come hang out on Facebook. What? Like you don't already spend three hours there a day.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Gremlin Book Review + Cocktail Recipes

Well, The Frugal Hostess keeps getting sent these amazingly beautiful books about cooking and drinking. For free.  It just keeps on happening.  Amazing.

Seriously, man.  Check these out.

The first, Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombie, has some amazingly creative ideas for drinks, whether you're a freak about organic ingredients (as you should be) or not.  The book takes a chef's approach to cocktails, incorporating ingredients like radish, purple basil, and simple syrup infused with beet juice.  Some ingredients are a little esoteric or expensive for The Frugal Hostess's taste - organic saffron threads, anyone?  But even the least attainable of the recipes contains an idea or two that you can replicate.

Here's an example.

Roasted Red Pepper Julep
Ingredients
4 sprigs of mint
1 oz. simple syrup [TFH often uses agave syrup in place of simple syrup.]
2 oz. roasted red pepper puree [There's a recipe for this in the book, but, really, just puree roasted red peppers.]
2 oz. bourbon
2 oz. sparkling water

Directions
1.  Muddle mint with simple syrup.
2.  Add ice.  FruHo recommends crushed ice for juleps, if you can get it easily.  [Also, she suggests adding only half the ice, followed by the rest of the ingredients, and topped with the remaining ice.  That just makes it easier to stir.]
3.  Add remaining ingredients, stirring slowly.
4.  Garnish with mint.

Isn't that just an intriguing recipe?

Gizmo Moments: Really cool, innovative takes on traditional cocktails, plus new ideas.  Focused on organic ingredients.  Very balanced drinks, with savory ingredients and herbs evening out the sweetness of simple syrups and sugars.  Great punch ideas!  When The Frugal Hostess was looking for punch ideas for her Mardi Gras party, she really could have used these ideas!  Also, gorgeous, plentiful pictures.



Stripe Moments: Some ingredients are hard to find or expensive, and TFH wishes that there were a few more stories included with the recipes, either personal ones from the author or more details on the history of the drink.  That is clearly not the point of the book; FruHo just thinks it would've been a cool addition.




Then there's Champagne Cocktails by A.J. Rathbun (this one isn't out yet, so no link to buy - sorry!).  Who has this many ideas for drinks based on bubbles?  The book starts with versions of the classics (think Kir Royale and Mimosa), and then follows up with a ton of other interesting ideas.  A particularly creative one is the Caprese Cocktail, which uses molecular gastronomy favorites, sodium alginate and calcium chloride, to create gels out of balsamic vinegar and ketchup.  These gels are in turn made into "caviar," which sit in the bottom of the champagne glass.  Amazing, right?  Unfortunately, there's no picture of this drink in the book, so it's hard to tell if this is worth the trouble of making it.

Gizmo Moments: Champagne cocktails are a really good way to make cheap wine seem more festive, and there are so many creative ideas in this book.  Plus, once you see how Rathbun has combined different ingredients, it's easy to come up with your own ideas.  Also, for those restaurants with only beer and wine licenses (this may be a Florida phenomenon), this can help spice up their offerings.




Stripe Moments: There are not enough pictures in this book.  Now, look, The Frugal Hostess is not illiterate, but she really prefers a lot of photography in any kind of cooking (or cocktailing) book.  How else do you know what you're getting yourself into?

Here is a final drink, inspired by both of these books.  

Rosemary Citrus Champagne Cocktail

Ingredients
Fresh rosemary, finely minced
Zest of one lemon or lime, or half an orange
Agave syrup (or sugar and water, or a packet of Splenda or stevia sweetener)
Splash of  water 
Bubbles

Directions - fast version: 
1.  Put the rosemary, zest, splash of water, and 1 oz. (or packet) of sweetener into a cocktail shaker, and shake like mad.  
2.  Pour into two champagne flutes and top with bubbles.

Directions - slow version:
1.  Combine one cup of sugar, one cup of water, several sprigs' worth of finely minced rosemary, and the zest in a saucepan.  
2.  Heat until sugar is completely dissolved.
3.  Let your rosemary-citrus simple syrup cool.  [FruHo likes to store simple syrups in squeeze bottles, like the kind the diner uses to store ketchup, in the refrigerator.  This is the least sticky method.  But it's still very sticky.  Duh, it's sugar.]
4.  Add an ounce or so of the syrup to each glass, and then top with champagne (or prosecco, or cava, or whatever is cheapest!).
5.  Garnish with a short sprig of fresh rosemary and a twist of citrus peel.

Wanna win one of these books?  Leave a comment about your favorite non-alcoholic beverage, and, if you win the random drawing, you'll have your choice of either Book 1, Book 2, or a Prize Package put together by The Frugal Hostess.  How will you ever have the nerve to request anything but the latter???

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lately

Here are some things that have been happening lately.

1.  These weird fairy phantom mushrooms pop up in the same spot in the backyard every day, but they don't hang around too long.  They are like apparitions and usually disappear within an hour of being seen, only to return again the next day.  The tops look like the gills of a mushroom without the cap over them, and you can see through them (which may not come across in the picture).  Does anyone know what these are?



2. FruHubs is out of town, and The Frugal Hostess misses him something fierce.  However, she has been delighted to redecorate the house in his absence.  FruHo does something like this every time he leaves town, because FruHubs likes to mull over decisions like this for years a while.  If he's gone, she can just get on with it.



3.  It's 796 degrees outside.

4.  The palm leaf plate is definitely decomposing quickly in the compost pile.  See?

Before.



After.


The Frugal Hostess insists that you come hang out on Facebook. What? Like you don't already spend three hours there a day.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Does Your Watermelon Garden Grow? UPDATED!

Can you see these tiny little watermelons?  Their growth is stunted.  Seriously, they've been the same size for at least three weeks.  Is it the heat?  Does anyone have advice about making them grow?


Blogging is so awesome.  The Frugal Hostess asked this question, and gegebrownagain answered!  She said, "Have you picked one to see if they are ripe? Living in the tropics, when it was particularly hot and humid for a few days in a row, our watermelons seemed to stop growing and juts ripened at the size they were at. Eating a watermelon whose red bit was only just bigger than a soft ball is a very interesting experience."

Well, friends, she was RIGHT!!!  Look at this:


And then, to make sure you realize how tiny they are, look at this!


Wow, right?

The Frugal Hostess insists that you come hang out on Facebook. What? Like you don't already spend three hours there a day.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Recipe for a New BFF

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Frugal Hostess is delighted to introduce today's guest blogger, Rachel Bertsche.  Rachel blogs about her adventures in finding a new best friend at MWF Seeking BFF, and she's also writing a book by the same title.  While Rachel is not at all as snarky, obnoxious, and big-mouthed as The Frugal Hostess tends to be, FruHo is a devoted daily reader of her blog.  This post describes a brilliant idea for girls ISO platonic girlfriends: a girls' night in.  TFH is kicking herself that she didn't think of this first, but this party will be happening at The Frugal Homestead some time soon.  Head for the hills, FruHubs!



I’m on the quest to find my new BFF. Now, one of the trickiest parts of friend searching is finding time to follow up with all the people you meet. Let’s say you do some serious girl-dating and find 10-15 great potential BFFs, but none of them know each other. This adds up to lots of one-on-one evenings, and it can feel like there’s not enough evenings in the month—the year!—to see everyone as much as you like.
What to do? Introduce them, of course.
I decided to host a girls-night-dinner-party-thing so I could catch up with some of my new friends, and also connect some ladies who I thought would hit it off. It would be like killing 8 birds with one stone, except for that phrase implies crossing a chore off the to-do list. This was more like eating 8 cakes for the calories of one. Or something else fabulous and delicious.
In trying to figure out what to serve potential new friends, I consulted some pals of the old variety: The ladies of Big Girls Small Kitchen. I'm usually the one who shows up with a bottle of Pinot, not the Suzy Homemaker, so could they suggest something delicious but easy?  Culinary problem-solvers to the core, they immediately had the perfect plan: A make-your-own-pizza party. An activity would help break the ice, they said, and mask any awkward silences that arise when strangers meet for the first time.

So last week I faked domesticity and (with more than a little help from Mom, I admit) prepped my kitchen for a cooking extravaganza. I  set out three stations, each with a recipe, bowls of ingredients, and a ball of pizza dough from my favorite local parlor. The biggest debate centered around how to roll out the dough. One girl swore we should do it by hand, the rest of us used rolling pins in order to get pizzas large enough to cover the rectangular baking sheets. The hand-roller said she’d recently read that was the best option, but in retrospect, the pins are the way to go. Unless you like super thick and super doughy dough. Which I kinda do. You know what they say about pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s good.
The whole make-your-own-ness was an ideal project, as those who wanted to don an apron and get a little messy could, and those who were more the drink-wine-and-chat type did that. And, not surprisingly, everyone partook in the decorate-your-own-cupcake portion of the evening. No one is too good for cream cheese frosting. (We had lots of cupcake toppings out, and still one guest used the Skittles we keep in a bowl in our living room. Cream cheese frosting and Skittles? Gross. But you do you, as my husband would say.)
Turns out awkward silences weren’t an issue—I’m a better matchmaker than cook. But I still endorse the make-your-own-dinner girls night. It helps foster chatting (wine helps with that, too) and, if nothing else, deflects total blame if the food is anything less than success.
I bought pizza dough from a local parlor and unfrosted cupcakes from my favorite bakery instead of making my own. If you want to make everything from scratch, check out the BGSK ladies’recipes here.

Pizza Sauce
(Makes about 2 cups sauce)

Ingredients
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes pureed in a food processor
6 basil leaves, coarsely torn
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of red pepper flakes
Directions
1.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil until fragrant, about 1 minutes. 
2.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. 
3.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups.
4.  Add the basil, and season sauce with salt and pepper. 
5.  Cook for 5 minutes more, then turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. (You can make this 3-4 days in advance).
White Pizza with Ricotta, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Scallion
Ingredients
1 ball pizza dough
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1/2lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced [You might want to buy double the amount of this, because fresh mozzarella is very difficult to not eat by the handful under cover of darkness.]
3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup pizza sauce (optional)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional) [NOT optional. XO, TFH]
Directions
1.  Preheat the oven to 500°F.*
2.  Spoon the ricotta over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. 
3.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top of the pizza. Arrange the fresh mozzarella, scallions, and sun-dried tomatoes on top. If using, dot the top of the pizza with small spoonfuls of tomato sauce.
4.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. 
5.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt, hot pepper, and grated parm if you like. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.
[*If your oven starts to smoke or smell weird or otherwise freak you out at this temperature, you can go lower if, and only if, you use a pizza stone.  TFH's oven is always coated with a layer of crumbs, and the billowing smoke they produce is nasty.  What?  Don't judge; how often do you clean your oven?]
Delicious variations include: Pepperoni and Shallot; Margharita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil; Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese; Barbecued Chicken; and Shrimp Pesto.

All recipes and photos reprinted with permission from BigGirlsSmallKitchen.com [another delightful blog].



The Frugal Hostess is wondering -- did you go to Rachel's blog?  Wait, what?  NO?  Are you insane?  Go to there now.
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