Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday To-Dos

The Frugal Hostess, as she's mentioned, is a planner. And, since she's cheap, it makes sense to do a lot of advanced planning if she wants to make things herself or look for supplies at garage sales. Here are some of her to-dos for the next week:

1. Start vanilla and vinegar for Christmas gifts. They each take about six months of sitting in the basement. These are super cheap and easy gifts to make, and they are actually useful, unlike some of the CPC that people give as "gesture gifts." TFH will look for cool bottles to put them in at her regular thrift stores.

2. Think about Halloween decorations. Look through craft supplies to see what Halloween items are there. Flip through old magazines for ideas.

3. Pick a date to host a Midnight Supper party. This will most likely be in late September so that dinner can take place outside. Maybe look at a full moon night?

photo by Joe Lanman

Monday, June 29, 2009

Make-It-Yourself Monday: Dairy Extravaganza

The Frugal Hostess is very sophisticated and also extra fancy. However, she does enjoy some good, old-fashioned, hand-made vittles. In particular, she likes to try to make things herself that you might ordinarily just purchase. Much to her delight, TFH found a soulmate in one Ms. Karen Solomon, author of the book "Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It." And thus was inspired a Dairy Extravaganza.

Prologue: Milk
Dairy comes from milk. Duh, of course. But, The Frugal Hostess cautions, the quality of the milk you use to make your dairy products directly impacts the quality of said products. Your milk shouldn't be ultra-pasteurized but can be pasteurized (the ultra is cooked too much for it to work correctly). You can use skim or 2% milk, but your end result will taste better if you use whole. And obviously use organic milk without hormones. The Frugal Hostess has been lucky enough to find a milk man who delivers raw "pet" milk from his farm to her area. He has to call it pet milk because it isn't pasteurized and thus a little more dangerous for people to drink, but TFH is willing to take the risk. It's delicious and makes great dairy. Try to find some farm-fresh milk, if you can.

Act One: Cheese
TFH actually started making cheese a while ago, using the 30 Minute Mozzerella and Ricotta Kit from Ricki the Cheese Queen. It could not be easier once you get the hang of it. She hates to say it, but you do need a couple of special ingredients and semi-unusual equipment to make this cheese, so The Frugal Hostess thinks you should buy the kit (it's, like, $25 and makes a ton). If you are a die-hard and want to just go for it, here's a recipe:

6 to 8 quart stainless steel pot (not aluminum or cast iron)

Stainless steel slotted spoon
Two-quart microwave-safe mixing bowl
Measuring spoons and cup

Rennet tablet
Citric Acid
Gallon whole milk (not pasteurized!)

1. Try to cut the rennet tablet into quarters. You need ¼ of a tablet, but it’s not a big deal if you go a little over; just don’t go under. Dissolve the rennet in ¼ cup of water. Set aside.
2. Put 1 cup of water in your stainless steel pot and add 1½ teaspoons of citric acid. Stir well to dissolve.
3. Pour in gallon of milk and stir well.
4. Heat to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from burner and add rennet solution. Stir well, cover, and set aside for five minutes to rest.
5. You should have curd at this point. (If not, let it sit longer.) Cut it up in the pot. Put back on burner and heat to 105 degrees, stirring slowly.
6. use the slotted spoon to scoop the curds out of the whey and into the microwave-safe bowl. You can save the whey to use in recipes or to water your plants.
7. Microwave the curd on high for one minute, then drain off additional whey. Knead the cheese with your hands until it is cool enough to touch. (It’s super-hot! Be careful or wear rubber gloves.)
8. Microwave two more times for 30 seconds, draining and kneading as before. Add salt at the end. The cheese is ready when it is stretchy and sort of shiny.

Act Two: Butter

Butter is easy to make. The Frugal Hostess made hers with the same special milk as she uses to make cheese. Fill a glass jar halfway with milk, and shake it for 30 minutes or until butter is made. Deceptively easy sounding, huh? Except that the shaking nonsense takes forrreeevvver. And all you get is about a tablespoon of butter. The better way is to follow Solomon's instructions in "Jam It..." and use heavy cream; you will get a much better yield for the ass-kicking work your arms go through doing all that shaking.

Act Three: Yogurt

The Frugal Hostess found a recipe for making yogurt in ReadyMade magazine. You take 1 ½ tablespoons of plain yogurt and mix it with a quart of heated up milk, then let it sit in a heated up (and then turned off) oven for between six and 12 hours. It was kind of nerve-wracking to leave a dairy product out over night, so TFH put it in the fridge after six hours. The yogurt turned out fine, if a little more liquid than expected. The taste was delicious, and The Frugal Hostess expects that it will taste even better with some honey or agave syrup added in. Blueberries, sliced peaches, and wheat germ were good.

photo by NickPiggott

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Exploding Brunch, Part One

The Frugal Hostess posed this question on her Facebook fan page last week: What does a frugal Fourth of July mean to you? The answers were sparse, because the traditional ways of celebrating Independence Day are already pretty frugal: wienie roast, free fireworks, and watermelon. But did you ever think that it might be time to upgrade? That maybe, just maybe, this is your year to make the Fourth of July shine?

Enter The Exploding Brunch.

This party is ideal for having eight or ten people over to your house. It is not exactly kid-friendly, although it could be modified somewhat to achieve that.


Obviously red, white, and blue will feature prominently. Rather than the typical bunting or flags, look around for less traditional objects that fit the color scheme. Ideas to try for your table centerpiece:

1. All shapes and sizes of white candles, accessorized here and there with red and/or blue ribbons.

2. A monochromatic still-life of everything red you can find.

3. White butcher paper stamped with assorted shapes in red and blue ink.

4. Glass bowls or platters filled with red, white, and blue foods. Red could include Twizzlers, strawberries, apples, Red Hots, Hawaiian Fruit Punch, and Doritos. For white, use marshmallows, honeydew melon, SnoBalls, pistachios in their shells, and string cheese. Blue can be blueberries, all shapes of blue gummies, blue corn tortilla chips, and Sweetwater Blue beer. Note: this is a fun thing to do, but it can get really expensive.

In addition to a table centerpiece, The Frugal Hostess always decorates for a party with a little something in the bathroom her guests will be using and a little something on the front porch. For the bathroom, a white candle tied with red and blue ribbon or a milk glass vase with some red carnations would be plenty. The front porch is a little more difficult unless you have a flag holder, in which case, duh. If you have potted plants on your porch, stick a couple of miniature flags in them. If you have hooks for hanging plants, you can use them to hang mobiles made of red, white, and blue ribbon or cut paper.

How to make a ribbon mobile:


One embroidery hoop, separated into two circles
Red, white, and blue ribbon in various widths
Fishing line


1. Cut the ribbon into 12-16 inch lengths (you will need a lot).

2. Tie each length to the embroidery hoop, turning the knots so that the ribbon hangs right.

3. Tie three lengths (10-20 inches, adjust based on what looks best at your house) of fishing line at even intervals around the hoop, then tie the ends together at the other end. This last knot needs to be strong, since you'll use it to hang the mobile up.

Variation: Since you would need a giant amount of ribbon to completely cover both hoops, it might be more frugal to use paper shapes. Cut stars or some other shape out of red, white, and blue papers (good way to use up old scrapbooking supplies or construction paper). Tape the shapes to 12-16 inch lengths of really thin ribbon, and tie the ribbon to the hoop. Twelve dangling shapes should be plenty on each hoop. That way, you can use fewer pieces but still have a big impact. A bonus step would be to paint the hoops before tying on the ribbons.

Whew, The Frugal Hostess is worn out. Stay tuned for The Exploding Brunch, Part Two.

photo by The Frugal Hostess (hence poor quality)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Seasonal Saturday: Blueberries

Blueberries are in season right now, at least where The Frugal Hostess lives. She bought some at the farmers' market, and they are delicious. They are sweet and pretty and make TFH feel extra happy.

But wait, you say, blueberries aren't exactly cheap. I (meaning you, Fair Reader) used some in a recipe for President's Day, and they cost me an arm and leg. Why are you (meaning The Frugal Hostess) telling me (Fair Reader) to buy an expensive fruit?

Hmm. Err, back to the third person. The Frugal Hostess reminds you that food in season is less expensive than food out of season. Imagine how expensive it is to grow blueberries in January, when they don't wish to be grown. The bribes, the payola - not to mention the chemicals, greenhouse construction materials, and labor - amount to a pretty penny. What they don't amount to, usually, is a pretty blueberry. Blueberries, and almost every other food, taste like mealy, mushy bleck when eaten out of season. Add to that the associated costs of shipping blueberries from the places they will grow out of season, and one wonders at the point of the year-round blueberry.

Well, The Frugal Hostess could talk about this until she's blue in the face, but she supposes you would prefer she didn't. So, here are some easy ways to use fresh blueberries when you're cooking and entertaining this week.

1. Sprinkle them in your cereal.

2. Mix them into your yogurt (and stay tuned for a yogurt segment coming very soon!).

3. Crush or blend up and add to marinade for fresh tuna steaks.

4. Make this salad: arugula (also in season now) + goat cheese + pecan halves + blueberries. For the dressing, put these ingredients in a jar and shake like crazy: 1/3 cup of olive oil + 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar + one egg yolk + salt & pepper + 10 or so crushed blueberries + some honey. (Please note that The Frugal Hostess made up these measurements because she eyeballs ingredients for salad dressing. So, you know, do what you can, and taste it before you serve it, adjusting as needed.)

5. Make popsicles. Fill these molds with apple juice and blueberries. (Buy the molds here, and The Frugal Hostess might be able to afford a set, too.)

And here is a slightly more complicated way to use fresh blueberries.

The Cheap Host's Famous Weekend Pancakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups milk
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup of fresh blueberries (estimated)

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl. If you don’t have a sifter or are lazy, just stir vigorously with a fork. Add the milk, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Mix until smooth. Add in enough blueberries to spread evenly through the batter.
2. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat and melt some butter to cover bottom of pan. Scoop the batter onto the hot pan using a ¼ size measuring cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot. (Easier said than done, right? That's why this is The Cheap Host's recipe.)
3. You can crush up some blueberries to add to your syrup, too, but this is very messy. Whether or not you do that, heat up your syrup (that's right, you can buy some without high fructose corn syrup!) in the microwave. This thins it out, so you use less (good for saving money and saving your pants size), and it also makes eating pancakes more exciting (at least, to The Frugal Hostess).

photo by MeetaK

Friday FREAK OUT! -- Gifts

The Frugal Hostess knows what it's like to freak out. Her paramour, The Cheap Host, once announced that his parents were visiting for the weekend - a weekend that included Valentine's Day - on the Thursday before they arrived. Thus, Friday FREAK OUT! Every Friday, The Frugal Hostess will provide you with tips on how to deal with last-minute nonsense without freaking out.

The Last-Minute Gift

The Frugal Hostess does not care for surprises. Well, that's not entirely true - she loves it when The Cheap Host surprises her by making dinner or getting her a present. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that The Frugal Hostess is not one for spontaneity. She plans out her planning sessions, during which she makes detailed plans for each plan. She does not care for last minute developments.

Unfortunately, all of the planning in the world can't prevent every short-term occurrence, and The Frugal Hostess knows, because she has attempted the completion of all of the planning in the world. Either someone decides to celebrate his birthday at the last minute, or someone else throws together a cookout celebrating Flag Day. What's a well-mannered girl to do?

Enter The Regifting Closet. (Wait. No need to actually enter it. Not a huge fan of the closeted.) OK, OK, The Frugal Hostess knows that some people consider regifting a little tacky, and she herself is torn. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and all that, so let's get on with it.

Find a shelf in your house. The Frugal Hostess uses the top shelf of the closet in her office, above the fray of ballgowns and winter coats. You will need open space, but you'll probably also need a medium-sized shopping bag and a shoe box. Into this area, put all of the random items you accumulate. Include used gift bags and tissue. Then, when you're faced with a last-minute event or birthday you forgot, you can peruse the regifting closet for a suitable item, pop it into a color-coordinated gift-bag-with-tissue, and voila!

Here's a partial list of what The Frugal Hostess has in hers:

1. miniature pedicure kit received by husband in swag bag at fashion show he was dragged to by TFH
2. free pack of note cards and envelopes received with purchase at stationer's
3. promotional deck of inspiring words of wisdom for women, with promo label discretely removed
4. box of assorted teas purchased for someone but never given
5. colorful luggage tags bought for $0.38 each because they were on sale
6. lotion samples from various retailers and beauty practitioners
7. 1.7 million pens and other Cheap Plastic Crap (CPC) - this is what the shoe box and shopping bag are used to corral.

A note on CPC: while you would certainly never give your BFF's BF a Viagra-emblazoned pill case for Christmas, The Frugal Hostess strongly suggests that you hold on to all the random junk people give you for free. You can do two things with it.

1. Christmas Stocking: Make an agreement with your family that all stocking stuffers must be items collected for free through out the year. This is often hilarious, and, at worst, cheap. TFH's entire makeup collection is comprised of free samples she got from her grandmother in this way.

2. Rainy Day Box: Once, when TFH was a wee lass, The Frugal Mother gave her a wondrous surprise. It was a box filled with assorted treasures, saved up over the months just for The Frugal Hostess. There were Mardi Gras beads, perfume samples, and even the wishbone from a turkey. In all, it was one of the most magical experiences of TFH's young life, and she encourages you to use your CPC to make the same kind of magic for your child. If you don't have children, consider sending your young nieces or neighbors a rainy day box filled with all of the things that are too stupid to use but too nice to throw away.

The Frugal Hostess encourages you to get busy on your regifting closet this very weekend. Meanwhile, she will be finishing up a Rainy Day Box for two little girls she knows.

photo by Kitten

Thursday, June 25, 2009


In lieu of our regularly scheduled content, today's post is in memory of Michael Jackson. While it seems silly, The Frugal Hostess is incredibly saddened by his death. Please take a moment to enjoy one of the best songs of all time, rather than TFH's usual nonsense.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Punk Rock Birthday Party

The Frugal Hostess doesn't know about you, but she is sick and tired of little girls dressed up like hoochies and ho bags. While she may be old-fashioned, there is no reason for any of this:*
belly shirts
slogans like "hottie;" "spoiled;" "diva;" or any variation thereof

*exceptions: you are between the ages of 18 and 25, and you approximate your target BMI; you are a stripper; you are a hooker; you are a pop star with a verifiable income.

Having said that, The Frugal Hostess does get cracked up by certain expressions of maturity rendered on small children. For example, a mohawk on a two-year-old = priceless. Vintage Jimi Hendrix tees, skater Vans, and tiny smoking jackets are all awesome. It's funny to see little children dressed up as adults, as long as they aren't dressed up as adult film stars. To that end, today's party is a birthday extravaganza for the smaller set.

Punk Rock Birthday Party
You were there - or close to there - so you should have plenty of memorabilia to help make this easy. If you don't, ask yourself why you're planning a punk party for your kid. Hmmm....

- posters of New York Dolls, The Stooges, Blondie, Television, The Clash, Patti Smith, and The Ramones (you'll probably want to leave out the Sex Pistols, but maybe you can find just Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious) You can try this site, and they'll send The Frugal Hostess some cash money.

- record album covers of same
- 11"x17" print-outs of the above printed out on your office copy machine -- make a letter-sized version, then set your giant printer to print 11"x17". (comment if you need detailed instructions on this).
- a banner or printed "CBGB/Omfug" sign for your door

Dress Code
Obviously, the point of doing this is to make yourself and the other adults laugh and laugh. To that end, please require punk attire -- multi-colored hair; mohawks; safety pins; and face paintings of lightening bolts, skulls, piercings, etc. Leather jackets, skater gear, ripped sweatshirts and jeans - you know what it's supposed to look like. Adorable!


Dance Contest: Play some Ramones and see who pogos the best or longest or highest. Variations: pillow fight slam-dancing (so it's softer) or musical chairs.
Punk Rock: Gather some good sized rocks, glue, and sewing notions, and let the kids decorate their own "punk rocks" to take home.
Clothespin Mohawk: Using a ton of old-fashioned clothes pins, see which kid can get the most to stay straight to form a mohawk in 15 seconds (adjust time based on ages).


According to Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators, with whom The Frugal Hostess takes several liberties, here's what you should serve:

Sliders a la White Castle and Krystal
Assorted Meat and Veggie Pizzas
The Nosh Pit: cubed cheese, crackers, raw veggies with dip, grapes, apple and pear slices, mixed nuts, and assorted olives

Guitar-Shaped Sugar Cookies or Cake

Root Beer Floats
Pineapple & Pomegranite Juice "Shooters"


The best part, the inspiration for this whole party, is this. That's right, Mom and Dad, you can order customized temporary tattoos for Junior's party. Send each of the kids home with a barbed wire arm band and watch the parental freak out. This website will customize tattoos based on your idea or design, and you even get 10% off for ordering online. Seriously, it's worth having this party just to get the tattoos.

God save the Queen.

photo credits: all via creativecommons.org. from top: .imelda, spokanekelly, Shannon Kelly, and Benoit.P.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blogwarming Party

In honor of the new blog, The Frugal Hostess offers some ideas to help you with housewarming:

Think comfort foods that remind you of home.*

Tomato Basil Soup
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Pickled Vegetables
Ice Cream Sandwiches Ahoy

Arnold Palmers - iced tea and lemonade
Arnold Palmeroskis - iced tea-flavored vodka and lemonade
*leave a comment if you'd like the recipes.

Easy Decorations:
U-Haul chic - use what you have.

- Turn your yet-to-be unpacked boxes into tables by covering with cloths.
- Twist brown paper packing wrap into abstract blossoms. Tie with colorful ribbons and stick into wide-mouthed glass vessels.
- Fill tall glass cylinders with packing peanuts; arrange in sets of three.
- Tie up napkin rolls with twine.
- Use duct tape and Sharpies to label cups.
- Stack small boxes in groups of two and three down the middle of your table, broken up with candles in different colors.

Housewarming Gift Ideas:
Cheap but thoughtful gestures of welcome.

Condiment Kit - One of the worst things about setting up a new house is that you're missing all of the condiments you built up in the fridge over time. Fill a basket, bucket, or box with four or five condiments from the grocery store - frugal, and appreciated!

Cleaning Certificate - For a twist on your childhood standby, offer your friend two hours of your time for organizing, laundry-folding, sweeping, or whatever you do best/hate least. Write down three specific dates and times for him to choose from so that this gift actually gets used. A nice variation: take her kids for two hours so she can get something done without interruption.

Neighborhood Scoop - For someone new to your hood, type up a page of tips and suggestions with phone numbers, websites, directions, etc. Include library, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. After you do this once and buy a few nice folders or envelopes for it, this is an easy, ready-made gift that takes very little extra effort.

photo of box by ahhyeah; condiments by corporatemonkey