Thursday, November 18, 2010

Super-Speedy Book Reviews

Wherein The Frugal Hostess attempts to redeem herself with the various publishing houses that have sent her review copies of books by finally actually reviewing them. 

(All links in this post are affiliate links, which means that TFH gets a tiny commission if you buy them using these links.  She also gets a commission if you use a link from this site to buy anything on Amazon, so if you're a big Amazon shopper and want to send some cash to FruHo, do that.  FYI, this is not a lucrative source of income; TFH has made, like, $.68 since she joined the Amazon affiliates program a year ago.  But you can help change that.  Ahem.)

Super-Speedy Book Review #1: Gifts Cooks Love

This book has an awkward title, beautiful photography, and at least one really cute idea that FruHo will be stealing.  It's full of homemade food gift ideas that vary in difficulty.  It really would make a great gift for a cook, although TFH must say that it reminds her a great deal of Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.  The cute idea?  Make up little breakfast treat baskets for hostess gifts.  Fill them with coffee, muffins, homemade jam, etc.  Cute, right?

Super-Speedy Book Review #2: Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It: The DIY Guide to the Good Life by Billee Sharp

This book is so full of great ideas for saving money and living frugally that you could read it 12 times and still not absorb it all.  Luckily, it's a tiny size, so it won't take up too much space on your shelf.  This is a great thing to buy yourself if you've decided to live a greener lifestyle or just want to save money.  The tone is friendly and not at all sanctimonious, so you don't feel like slapping the author (which is so often the case with these kinds of books).  Right on, book!

Super-Speedy Book Review #3: The Frugal Foodie Cookbook by Lara Starr with Lynette Shirk

This is another cute little book that doesn't take up a lot of space.  It has recipes for making use of all your food so that you waste nothing.  There are lots of ideas for lunches to avoid eating out, and the piece de resistance is "Exponential Chicken," which is five nights worth of extremely varied menus made from one chicken poached on Sunday.  TFH loves the idea of that, although FruHubs would never, ever, ever be able to get behind that idea.  He freaks out about planning one day in advance, much less an entire week.  This would be a great gift for a recent college grad or newly-weds.

Super-Speedy Book Review #4: Mess by Keri Smith

FruHubs got TFH another of Smith's books (Wreck This Journal) a few years ago for Christmas.  It was cool: a journal with instructions on each page for taking unexpected action, like to rip the page out and tear it into tiny pieces.  FruHo never did a lot with the journal, though; it felt sort of awkward and silly.  This is another similar journal, but the instructions are better in this one (I-TFH-HO).  It also includes quotes and ideas for further research.  This is a great book for an artist or someone who needs to shake off some uptight-ness.

Super-Speedy Book Review #5: Salty Sweets by Christie Matheson 

O-TFH's-G, this is an awesome cookbook!  It is filled with recipes for things that combine - you guessed it - salt and sweet in interesting ways.  Some of most unusual are "Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Crostini," "Lavender Fleur de Sel Shortbread," and "Fig and Ricotta Pizza."  The Frugal Hostess made the recipe for dark chocolate coconut bars, and it was amazing!  If you or your loved ones are into salty sweets, definitely add this book to your shopping list.

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Guest Post: Hold the Wrapping Paper!

The Frugal Hostess loves to wrap gifts.  Honestly!  It's the way she made her mother-in-law love her - by wrapping all her Christmas gifts.  Here are some great ideas for alternatives to paper wrapping from Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer of

Box it up
Hat boxes, fabric-wrapped storage boxes and photo boxes are great for "wrapping" gifts for any occasion, but are great options for winter holidays. They can be used for storage later on and they stand up to a few flurries better than paper. Add some fabric ribbon tied in a bow and you have a lovely package.

Basket case
Pile a bunch of small items into a banana leaf or wicker basket, and finish off with fabric ribbon secured with an ornament or a broach picked up from a second-hand store.

Wrap gifts in fabric remnants. You can pick up remnants at most fabric stores, often at 50 to 66 percent off the regular price. Fold the fabric around the gift and secure with raffia or a fabric ribbon, or sew a simple sac to hold anything from an iPod to a bottle of wine.

The Old World
Use out-of-date maps to wrap gifts you're giving to travel lovers. It's a great way to reuse a paper item before it hits the recycling bin. Secure with raffia or butcher's twine.

Jar head
Use a glass container or large mason jar for giving homemade treats. If you're sharing your favorite recipe, layer the dry ingredients in the jar, and attach the recipe to the jar with a ribbon.

If you truly can't resist the urge to tear away at a paper-wrapped gift, look for recycled wrapping paper. (Just say no to foils and sparkles.) And be sure to use every last scrap!
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cool Contest to Enter

The Frugal Hostess has never, ever copied an entire press release into this blog.  What a lazy thing to do!  Well, that changes today, as she brings you the entire press release about a really cool contest being sponsored by the everlastingly inspiring and magical ReadyMade Magazine (affiliate link).  Winning this would be like winning the Nobel Prize in being crafty/cool.  Go forth and enter!

ReadyMade (1-year auto-renewal)


Judging Panel to Include Renowned Designer Jonathan Adler, Instructables Founder and CEO Eric Willhelm and Design*Sponge’s Grace Bonney

New York, NY (November 2, 2010) – ReadyMade magazine is calling on the DIY community to submit its most functional, beautiful, interesting, sustainable manifestations of creativity to the ReadyMade 100. Launching this year, the ReadyMade 100 is a new annual contest designed to celebrate the best 100 projects from the wide world of DIY. From now until December 15 entrants can upload their projects to in the following categories: Home & Garden, Food & Entertaining, Design, Craft, Fashion & Style, Culture, Travel & Places, and Technology & Work. That basically covers everything, so the sky’s the limit.

After the submission deadline, readers, whether submitting a project or not, can vote on the projects. Next, a panel of eight expert judges, including Jonathan Adler, Instructables founder and CEO Eric Wilhelm, Grace Bonney of home and product blog Design*Sponge, and DIY Network’s Amy Devers will select their favorite submissions. The winner will be named “Main Maker” and will be awarded $500 as well as a three-night stay in New York City, including one night at a ReadyMade 100 party in his/her honor. In addition, the Main Maker’s winning project will be featured on the cover of the 2011 April/May issue. To complete the package, the winner will have the opportunity to contribute to ReadyMade’s website throughout the year with updates on his/her projects.

A group of Top 50 Makers will also be selected and will receive prizes, including special badges, T-shirts, notoriety, bragging rights, and a spot in the 2011 April/May issue.

To enter the ReadyMade 100 annual contest, submit your project using the Project Uploader Tool at

To view all ReadyMade 100 entries, please visit:

To vote, click on the link “This gets my vote!” You can vote for an unlimited number of projects, though you can only vote for each project once daily.        

For more information, please visit:

About ReadyMadeReadyMade magazine, which launched in December 2001, is published bi-monthly. It was named to Adweek Media’s 2010 Magazine “10 Under 60 Hot List,” and was a National Magazine Award Finalist in the General Excellence category in 2005 and 2006. Targeted at adults in their 20s and 30s, the magazine offers myriad do-it-yourself projects and promotes an environmentally friendly lifestyle. The website complements the magazine's print content with how-to tips and project ideas. The brand’s fast-growing social media presence includes an interactive online community with calendar events, photos, projects, and blogs. In addition to the magazine and website, ReadyMade published its first book -- How to Make (Almost) Anything [affiliate link] -- in December 2005.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

FruHo Says Relax (?)

The Frugal Hostess would like to talk about relaxation. Yes, that topic is somewhat far afield from parties, but it makes a round-about kind of sense. To whit: if we entertain friends to have fun in our free time, then in some way it must be relaxing. Except, it is not at all relaxing, although still fun. Huh. The point is that, for FruHo, it is hard to relax, but it is not hard to celebrate or have fun, although those things are quite different.

What does this mean?

Don’t get your hopes up that this is gonna make sense.

OK. So, when TFH thinks about things that are relaxing, she thinks of getting a massage, sitting on a beach reading, watching movies on a rainy afternoon, etc. When TFH has free time, she rarely does any of the above things. Instead, she does cooking experiments, looks at every single thing in the thrift store, or tries to make a craft project. None of that is relaxing, although it’s fun. In fact, the idea of doing any of the things listed as relaxing up there makes FruHo feel so guilty that she just added another project to her to-do list (see therapist about guilt complex).

Don’t misunderstand: The Frugal Hostess isn’t pretending to be so incredibly busy that all she has time for is drinking espresso for dinner on her way to the next appointment; she will leave that level of martyrdom activity to mothers of small children. What she is saying, though, is that relaxation seems like a concept that exists in commercials but not real life. FruHo is happy and has lots of fun, so does she even need to relax? What does relaxation feel like? How do you know it’s time to relax, and how do you tell when you’re there?

Help a potentially uptight-without-even-knowing-it sister out in the comments.

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