Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LeFix Concoqs a Multinational Incident

During the first Eat on $30 Challenge, The Frugal Hostess had the pleasure to "meet" Leekfixer first on Twitter, and then IRL a few short weeks ago.  Leekfixer writes about his suburban farming adventures on The Funny Farm and about his collisions with French food here on The Frugal Hostess.  And now, Dear Readers, FruHo urges you to delve into this multi-national incident.  

LeFix was watching one of those Iron Chef shows awhile back, and they were talking about Coq au Vin. He thought they were talking about some kind of kinky porno stuff he hadn't heard of yet but it turned out they were talking about chicken. When he looked it up on the interwebs (LeFix always heard it called the internet but maybe not) he found out that the fancy-pants French chefs liked to use old hens to make this stuff. They put wine in it too, which LeFix thinks is a waste of good Party Likker but what the hey... when in Paris....

Well, LeFix's friend was moving from one farm to another, and he had some hens he didn't want to move because he said they were too old and wouldn't lay eggs much longer. He tried to find somebody to buy them but seeing as how there ain't too many fancy pants French Chefs around these parts he gave one to LeFix. Woohhooo -- time to make coq au vin.

LeFix went on the interwebs again and found a recipe on a site called Epicurius (LeFix thinks that is French for people who are curious to learn how to cook). The recipe said it would take two days to make.  TWO DAYS!!!  LeFix usually likes to cook stuff that takes more like 30 minutes, you know like that cute Rachael Ray does on TV. (Not really, but 2 DAYS?) Well, being that it was Christmas and LeFix doesn't like sitting around watching football all day he decided that, since LaFix had invited a bunch of people over for dinner in a few days, he might as well give it a shot.

The recipe said to make a marinade with a whole bottle of wine, some onions, carrots, garlic and pepper and let the coq soak in it for a day. Ok, if the coq was going to soak up some wine then Le Fix figured he should get some Party Likker and join in the fun. (Step 1: Drink a shot of homemade Party Likker.)

It was after that when the lightbulb came on and LeFix remembered the bottles of wine his best friend brought over to the Funny Farm about a year ago. You may be wondering why LaFix hadn't drunk that wine after a year (she really likes her wine).  Well it turns out that LeFix’s best friend was a deadhead (you know: following around the Grateful Dead, hair in dreadlocks, selling hemp jewelry, getting high, twirl dancing, hula hooping). Somehow or other she ended up with a bunch of Deadhead wine. Problem was that the wine had been dealcoholized (which means somebody removed the Party Likker and drank it themselves, I guess). Nobody here at the Funny Farm wants to drink dealcoholized wine.  We like our Party Likker intact. So if you won't drink it you might as well cook with it. [Editor’s note: Um, what?  How do you take the booze part out of booze?  Was it Wharf Rat wine?]

So, the Deadhead wine went into a pot along with the other ingredients the recipe called for. Now here is where the multinational part comes in. LeFix grows a type of onion here at the Funny Farm called a Welsh onion. It comes from Wales (that’s over near England somewhere). Oh yeah, there is another French Connection too (haha). Since LaFix invited so many people over for dinner LeFix needed another coq to feed everyone. Well the coq dealer [Editor’s note: HA!] didn't have any more free hens so Le Fix had to buy a chicken. This chicken cost $20 freakin' dollars. And the damn thing only ate grass and bugs. What's up with that?  It turns out it was a kind of chicken called a Poulet Rouge (that's French for red chicken) [Editor’s note: Not French for a chicken wearing makeup?]. Le Fix was expecting the meat to be red but when he cut it open it looked just like that old hen, only less fat. The dang thing better taste real good.

While the coqs were soaking up the wine LeFix made another batch of pate like he talked about last time using livers from those French red chickens. The livers were red but so were the other ones.  [Editor’s note: So Poulet Rouge remains a mystery.]

The recipe called for mushrooms so the next day Le Fix went out in the woods to get some wild oyster mushrooms to put into the dish. He nearly broke his freakin' neck sliding down the muddy hill where they were growing but the recipe said use wild mushrooms so LeFix was determined to follow it to a T. Well except it called for bacon which LeFix did not have but he figured he could get away with using fatback he got from Nature's Harmony Farm where they raise their half-wild pigs in the woods where they get fat eating acorns and stuff.

Oh yeah, it called for shallots which are some kind of French onion (not that kind that comes in a can that you put on green bean casserole. LeFix has plenty of those). But, keeping with the multinational theme, LeFix decided it would be okay to use more of those Welsh onions. Then he read further and saw it called for 20 pearl onions. Pearl onions?  What the heck are those? Those fancy pants French chefs sure are picky about their onions.  Le Fix grew a bunch of garlic this year so he decided to expand the multinationality into another country and use garlic instead. (Garlic? Italy? Mama mia!)

So from here on out there was a lot of straining this, browning that, simmering this, that and the other, until finally everything goes into one pot for a while. Then, after it was finished LeFix put it in the refrigerator until the next day because the recipe said it would taste better. LeFix was so hungry by that point he could have eaten the whole thing. But guests were coming tomorrow. [Editor’s note: FruHo is so hungry at this point that she gnawed through her mouse cord.]

LaFix had invited the guests over for coqtails before dinner so it was touch and go for a while for LeFix to actually get the coq au vin on the table cause LeFix au vin was having a little (well more than a little) trouble focusing after having a few coqtails.  But everybody pitched in and le coq au vin hit the table and was gobbled up in short order.

Tres magnifique.

Complete coq au von recipe can be found here.
The Frugal Hostess is once again in LeFix.  Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe (over there, on the left) so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009


"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." - Jimi Hendrix

Merry freaking Christmas, peeps.  The Frugal Hostess couldn't love you more.  Seriously. Thanks for sticking it out.  I.  And Love.  And You.  {With apologies to the Avett Brothers.}

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Decorating for the Holidays

So, are y'all getting sick of Christmas posts yet?  The Frugal Hostess kind of is.  What she means is, you know, she's been working on DIY XMAS since August, so it gets old at a certain point.  However, here is yet another DIY XMAS post.  This one is about decorating your house.

Basically, The Frugal Hostess would like to advocate the use of all of the stuff you have when it comes to the Christmas holiday season.  If you have been the recipient of a pile of Lenox Christmas china serving pieces, put them out and use them.  Don't think you have to wait for a party.  Seriously, what are you saving that freaky Christmas tree-shaped dish for?  And your reindeer wine glasses?  Dude, drink some wine out of them!  Life is too short!

Even if some of your Christmas items were gifts not exactly to your taste, don't let that stop you from putting them out.  To be frank, there is NO SUCH THING as tasteful Christmas decor.  It's like Las Vegas - awesome, fun, inspiring, and glorious - but not, just not, tasteful.  Sorry. 

But not really sorry.  Because, isn't that freeing???  Put all your tacky Christmas shit out and revel in it.

Five ideas:

- Put something in the bathroom that guests will use.  TFH gave her trailer park bust collection a compliment of winter scarves, but you know what will work the best.

- Display something cool in an unexpected place.  FruHo put her bad ass nativity scene, made in the Philippines out of recycled newspaper, in the foyer on a really cool antique school desk. 

- Decorate your kitchen or bar with those random holiday serving pieces.  Don't leave them in the box - even if you don't use them, they make a cool display on a side board.

- Use Christmas pictures of your friends and family as decorations.  Those snapshots can be framed and spread around for maximum holiday impact.

- Put a couple of little things everywhere.  Even if they're in your private dressing room, a Santa or Snowman here and there can help you enjoy the holidays.

The Frugal Hostess loves Christmas. And her dog is in heat - annoying!. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe (over there on the left) so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DIY XMAS: Candied Citrus Peel

Yeah.  TFH may have tried this a time or two before.  And she may have learned a thing or two about sugar crystals.  Like, if you let a sugar crystal drop into the simple syrup solution, you will get a pot full of crunchy, orange-flavored sugar.  Which sucks (but can be used for other stuff).

Well, finally, she found a decent recipe (yep, the past mistakes are definitely the recipe's fault), buckled down, and paid attention rather than drinking wine and reading blogs while trying to cook.  And, thus, some amazing candied citrus peel was the result!  Do it!

Citrus fruits

1.  Cut each fruit into quarters and carefully peel the skin away from the fruit.  (Reserve the fruit for another purpose.)
2.  Try to cut away as much of the bitter-tasting white pith from the skin as you can.  This ain't easy.  But do your best.  (Incidentally, which came first: bitter pith or pithy comments?)
3.  Place the skins in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and let boil for ten minutes.
4.  Repeat three times.  Yes, that's right.  Pour out the water, save the peel, recover the peel, and boil again.  And again.

5.  After the third boil (eww, doesn't that sound gross?), let the peel cool a bit.  Then, if needed (and it will be needed, especially on lemons), scrape away any additional pith with a sharp knife.  This takes a while but is particularly satisfying.
6.  Setting aside the peel business for a while, mix one cup each of water and sugar for each cup of peel over low heat.  Stir often to make sure the sugar melts, but don't let the solution get too hot.  And, obviously, don't drop even a single, solitary sugar crystal into the pot, or you are totally screwed.
7.  Drop the scraped peel into the sugar solution and cook over low heat until most of the syrup is absorbed.  This takes a while.  Don't leave the kitchen.  But you can make something else at the same time, like peanut butter balls.

8.  When the time finally comes to removed the peel from the simple syrup, spread it out on parchment paper and let it dry for a while.  Then sprinkle granulated sugar all over it, let it dry some more, and either eat it or give it away.  You can also dip one end in melted chocolate, which is delicious.

The Frugal Hostess only enjoys lemon in dessert preparations. On fish, lemon is gross.  You heard correctly.  Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or visit FruHo Holidays for a peak inside the holiday store room.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Email Subscriptions

The Frugal Hostess never promised you a rose garden.  And by rose garden she means technical blogging skills.  That's why it's taken her six months to set up an email subscription form on this here blog.  But, by golly, she did it today.  She's so proud that she popped it on here four flipping times!  SO, if you don't use a reader to subscribe to blogs, you can now enter your email address and get every new blog post delivered to your inbox.  How about that!

The Frugal Hostess gets lonely. Please subscribe via email using the four handy options to your left!  Yeehaw! You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or check out the (mostly empty) FruHo Holidays storehouse here.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

When Decorative Gourd Season Ends

Now that Decorative Gourd Season has ended, The Frugal Hostess continues to be dismayed by the number of decorative gourds and pumpkins she sees piled up on the side of the road.  Now that their season has passed, decorative gourds are being pushed aside like they are trash.  Unfortunately, FruHubs won't let TFH stop and rescue all of the orphaned decorative gourds she spots, but FruHo can give you some ideas for how to save your decorative gourds from an uncertain future on the street.

Soup.  This is obvious, right?  Any decorative gourd or pumpkin can be made into delicious soup.  Here's how.

1.  Hack into the decorative gourd, and remove the pulp and seeds.  Save the seeds.  Put the pulp in your compost pile.

2.  Cut the decorative gourd into several smaller pieces and arrange on a baking sheet.

3.  Drip olive oil into the center of each piece, and then add salt and pepper.  You can't go wrong.

4.  Roast in a 375 oven for an hour and a half.  Actually, FruHo will admit, she has no idea how long or at what temp.  There's a good chance she does it differently every time, because she can't remember.  So, you can't go wrong on this one, either.

5.  Let your roasted chunks of decorative gourd cool, then cut away the [TFH is suddenly having deja vous.  Did she post about this already?  If so, she can't find it in the archives, so.....] rind.

6.  Puree in the food processor or blender.

7.  At this point, you could freeze the puree if you didn't feel like eating soup.  Or, you could make soup.  Put the puree in a pot over medium heat, and add half stock and half milk, cream, or half and half.  You will need to eyeball this based on the amount of decorative gourd you have and the thickness of soup you prefer.  If you don't have stock, add all dairy.  If you don't have dairy, add all stock.  Or use some water.  Really, it's your soup; do what you want.

8.  Serving suggestions: Sauteed mushrooms are delicious with this - nice contrast of flavor - as are roasted seeds seasoned with cayenne pepper and salt and slightly crushed.  For a more decadent meal, put a pile of jumbo lump crab meat in the center of the bowl.

Sausage Bowl.  This idea comes from FruHo's friend Meg and is delectable.

1.  Cut your decorative acorn or dumpling squash in half.  Scoop out seeds and pulp.  Roast about 45 minutes with olive oil, salt, and pepper in the hollowed out part.

2.  Make a Sausage Mixture of Excellence.  This can be ground sausage cooked plain, or mixed with rice or with some sauteed peppers and onions added.  A nice garnish, also courtesy of Meg, is fried sage.

3.  Fill the squash bowls with Sausage Mixture of Excellence.  Grate some Parmesan cheese over the top, and bake for a while (like, 15 minutes or so?) so that the sausage juices soak into the squash bowl.

Looks pretty, tastes pretty.  Right on.

Other ideas. 

1.  FruHubs' risotto recipe.
2.  Roasted wedges as a side dish.
3.  Serve the puree as a side dish (like mashed potatoes), without making the soup.

A note on shellack:  It is not delicious.  If you bought shellacked decorative gourds, well, you are screwed.  Don't eat that crap.

The Frugal Hostess, like an abandoned decorative gourd, gets lonely. Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

DIY XMAS: Bath Snowballs

As a companion to the Spa Salts we talked about the other day, why don't you make some Bath Snowballs?

1/2 cup citric acid
1 cup baking soda
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
About 6 drops food coloring
10 to 15 drops essential oil(s)

Directions1. Stir together citric acid, baking soda, and cornstarch.
2. Stir in sugar and food coloring.  If you leave out the food coloring, the final product will be white and more snowball-esque.  But you might want to make them to match your spa salts, or just in cool colors for fun and excitement.
3. Fill a spray bottle with water.  Spray the mixture lightly pausing between spritzes.  It should become damp but not fizzy; if it starts to fizz you are spraying too much too fast.  (Rather like Shakedown Street.  Get it?  "Maybe you had too much too fast..."  OK, nevermind.)  It's perfect when you can pack the mixture with your hands, and it stays together but just barely.
4. Add the essential oil one drop at a time until you like the way it smells.  For The Frugal Hostess, this means shake the bottle like hell - about 25 drops, maybe?  If you're using food coloring, mix it until the color is even.  Spray again if the mixture begins to dry out.
5. Spoon into an ice-cube tray (you might need to use two), pressing firmly. Let them dry at room temperature overnight.
6.  Pop them out of the tray, and put them into jars.

Some thoughts on this gift:  FruHo can't say she totally loved the way the snowballs looked, most likely because she put too much in each cube.  Don't overstuff them.  Next time, she plans to use a mini-muffin pan rather than an ice cube tray.  Also, she made white ones but thinks they would be cuter in a color.  And, finally, while a pure extract of vanilla or almond would work well for spa salts, this project really takes essential oils for the scent to be pure and strong enough.

Packaging:  Since TFH didn't love the color, she packed these into a jar and added some uncolored spa salts.  The tag will say something like, "After your snowballs melt, empty the remaining snow into your bath."  Cute, huh?

Also: The Frugal Hostess thinks she got this idea from Martha Stewart, but it could have also been ReadyMade or some random blog post.  If you think this was your idea first, it totally was, and you can get credit and a backlink - just leave the info in the comments.
The Frugal Hostess gets lonely. Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

In Real Life

In the last five days, The Frugal Hostess has met no fewer than five formerly internet-only friends.  It would be even cooler if she had met one per day, but two happened on Thursday and three happened today.  Here are their deets; check 'em out in order of appearance:

@WholeMind and http://www.rationallycreative.com/blog/
@leekfixer and http://happyfood-funnyfarm.blogspot.com/
@runwithtweezers and http://www.runningwithtweezers.com/
@brokesocialite and http://thebrokesocialite.com/
@thepioneerwoman and http://thepioneerwoman.com/

TFH is certainly down with sending you hither and yon for some good blog action, and she wants you to check out all of the peeps she digs.  But that's not really the point of this post.

Many "internet famous" social media and blog superstars talk about the importance of transparency.  Some say that putting it all, and sometimes they really mean all, on the line is the only way to live with authenticity.  TFH was recently at an event where the speaker admitted he had totally forgotten to bring a component of his presentation.  He chalked admitting his mistake up to being real in his business, which resulted in a round of applause.

Now, clearly The Frugal Hostess walks a fine line when it comes to being transparent.  She has no problem admitting when her projects go wrong, like when her homemade shampoo gives her dandruff, when her house gets infested with fleas, or when her Lentil Loaf is so gross that FruHubs is able to run a table saw on the power of his resulting gas.  But she stays somewhat removed by never revealing her name and never speaking in the first person.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  First, it's an homage to Miss Manners, who was a formative part of the young FruHo's childhood.  And second, TFH wants to be able to say what she wants without making the clients of her IRL business fire her. And, maybe, well....  Well maybe The Frugal Hostess is just a little afraid.

So, if you're a blogger and you meet other bloggers and internet friends In Real Life, how do you go from being who you are on your blog to who you are?  Where does authenticity and transparency fit in?  (Please don't leave any silly comments that say, "Be yourself."  Seriously.  You will be banned for life.)  In Real Life, TFH is who she is here, only without the distance of the third person.  She's more like a floppy, licky Lab puppy - desperate to make people laugh, desperate for a pat on the head of approval, and desperate to eat everything on your plate.  OK, maybe not that last part.  (Yeah, definitely that last part.)  She's also loud and talkative and maybe a touch overwhelming.  She cusses like a sailor.  (Way more than you read here.)  Sometimes FruHo remembers to pull back on that (the intense and cursing parts) when she first meets new people, and sometimes she doesn't. 

How much of being the person you really are is transparency, and how much is just too much?  Does the goal of authenticity excuse us from considering other people?  Does dropping the f-bomb the first time you meet someone mean that you're super-transparent, or does it just mean you're tacky?

Does any of this make sense?
The Frugal Hostess is spending so much time with The Frugal Hound (who is actuallyno longer a puppy) that she fancies herself dog-like.  Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Book-Signing Etiquette

So, how embarrassing is this?  The Frugal Hostess didn't realize that The Pioneer Woman's Atlanta book-signing was happening tonight until yesterday afternoon.  Whoops.  Putting aside the fact that The Pioneer Woman is one of FruHo's favorite bloggers, TFH reads her blog every stinkin' day.  Duh.  How did this get missed?

Well, there's no use crying over spilled milk, so FruHo is going to the book-signing.  As she's pretty excited about it.

Except for one little thing.  FruHo has never been to a book-signing before.

Seriously, calm down.  It's not that big of a deal.  Shhhh.

Um, alright, yeah it is.  TFH loves to read and thinks writers are rock stars.  She knelt over F. Scott Fitzgerald's grave in Maryland and rubbed graphite across his tombstone (to make a rubbing, not to make it dirty), while a priest scowled at her.  Her heart went pitter-pat when she was introduced to Hollis Gillespie.  And she has a long list of future cat names derived from her favorite novels.  So, yeah, it's ridiculous that she hasn't been to a book-signing.

And, like a young child who never learns to swim, she wonders if it's too late to have her first experience.  Like, how do you act?  Is it weird to go by yourself?  Do you tell the writer that you love her work, or do you act like you're just there for the cookies?  Should you bring a copy of the book that looks like it's been read already, or should you buy a book at the hosting store?  You guys, what should FruHo do????

The Frugal Hostess is kind of nervous about this book-signing, so please give her some advice. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Thanksgiving Reflections

You may have noticed that The Frugal Hostess didn't have a lot to say about Thanksgiving.  It was not for lack of love for the holiday.  Rather, TFH had no idea what she was doing for Thanksgiving until the very last minute, so she didn't do a lot of advanced planning.

OK, can we talk about this for just a sec?  TFH is a planner.  Plan-plan-planny-plan-planner.  Like, she would totally love to plan out how every moment of every day would be spent.  Obviously, that's not realistic (but dare to dream...), but she would at least like to have plans for major events - holidays, vacations, family visits.  When FruHo doesn't know what the plan is, she feels like she's going to hyperventilate and freak out and, perhaps, die.  Or, you know, come unhinged.  In the extreme.

The Frugal Husband, on the other hand, comes from a long line of non-planners.  FruHubs feels the tightening of a noose around his neck every time FruHo asks what the plan is.

Neither one of them is wrong.  (Except The Frugal Husband.)  But this disparity in planning skills is why TFH had no idea what she was doing for Thanksgiving until a week in advance.  Which was enough to make TFH want to scratch off her own skin.

Well, as it happened, Thanksgiving was had at The Frugal Homestead, and many lovely and charming guests attended.  Here are their thoughts.

1. If you were a Thanksgiving side dish, what would you be?

Eclectic Georgia: Cranberry sauce - sweet yet tart
Birds and Cherries: Sweet potatoes!
Ty Period: Cranberry sauce. Sweet and fruity.
Toni: sweet potato pie
FruHubs: Dressing (stuffing)

2. Who’s a better cook, The Frugal Hostess or The Frugal Husband?

EG: ouch....I think you're better with baking and candies for sure, but FruHub can indeed cook
BnC: I'll never tell
Ty.: Duh hubby! :)
T: Fru-ho (no bias there), but Fru-band gets honorable mention!!
Fubs: Duh, that’s an easy one.

3. How many times can The Frugal Hound lick you before she gets to the Tootsie Roll center?  

EG: ha!  One?  I gave her turkey without any lickings!
BnC: eleventeen
Ty.: (a one...a two..) THREE!
T: I am a Tootsie Roll center! (Existentially, a centered Tootsie Roll.)
Fubs: 14

4. Did the Birthday Book accurately predict your weekend?

EG: no
BnC: eh, not so much
Ty.: Yes I got moody but overall stayed positive.
T: Read after the 3rd glass of wine, I dunno.
Fubs: nin [Editor’s note: What the hell does that mean?]

5. Describe a Manhattan cocktail in six words.

EG: Damn!  Strong!  Wow!  Damn again!  Cough!
BnC: delicious, sophisticated, drunk-inducing - that's only 4 because it got me drunk
Ty.: A little goes a long way.
T: You should run for your life!
Fubs: A real one, or that Thanksgiving one? Shit, out of words.  I would say boozy and good.

6.Don’t you agree that the Rosemary Onion rolls taste better without the blue cheese topping?

EG: didn't try them with
BnC: Actually, the blue cheese topping was better without the rolls
Ty.: Yes
T: Very tasty with, but the blue cheese competed more than complemented all the other flavorful sides and the turkey. If you ever prepare with beef, however, I’d keep the blue cheese.
Fubs: Yes

7. How many fried turkeys does The Frugal Hostess wish she had?

EG: 2
BnC: eleventeen
Ty.: Two more for Xmas?
T: If you get too many we’ll have to call you ‘fried-turkey-ho’ instead of ‘fru-ho’!!
Fubs: At least two.  Next year we will smoke and fry!!

8.  What was your favorite thing about Thanksgiving? 

EG: Meeting new friends
BnC: sharing it with cool peeps - good times!
Ty.: Food and camaraderie
T: Meeting everyone, relaxing, eating, discussing, and surviving the cats! :)
Fubs: Frying a big ass bird

9.  What was your least favorite thing about Thanksgiving? 

EG: Not playing all girl Rock Band with [name redacted]
BnC: the above-referenced drunkenness
Ty.: Couldn't see all family and friends.
T: Sorry to the cats … (I’ll know to double-up on my OTC allergy drugs beforehand next time.)
Fubs: The [team name redacted] sucking so bad

10.  If Thanksgiving was a costume party, would you be a pilgrim or an Indian? 

EG: duh, Indian!
BnC: Indian - 'cause I love wearing feathers!!!
Ty.: Indian
T: A Cleveland Indian!!!
Fubs: Pilgrim because everyone wants to be an Indian.  Plus, I can bring you all the gift of small pox and broken promises.

The Frugal Hostess is married to a pilgrim.  Hmm.  Please comment. Or come and rescue her.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

DIY XMAS: Spa Salt

The Frugal Hostess is a big fan of bathing.  Just kidding.  But she does bathe.  Just kidding.  Who cares.  Let's just skip the formalities and get straight to the easiest gift to make ever: bath salts.  This is also super cheap, like about $2 for two to three gifts.  Just kidding.  But it's cheap.

OK, here we go.

Latching Mason jars (purchase for $1-$2 at the thrift store - not easy to locate at other stores)
Epsom salts (buy in the pharmacy section of your grocery store - $2.50 for about seven cups)
Food coloring (already had some,  no idea how much it costs)
Essential oils and/or extracts that smell good (orange, peppermint, almond, vanilla)
Carrier oil (which is supposed to be sweet almond or sesame oil, but can also be canola oil, which is much more frugal)

1.  Mix two cups of Epsom salts with 1/3 cup of oil.
2.  Add a few drops of oil or extract and a few drops of food coloring.  Stir until completely mixed.
3.  Spoon into jars.

Right?  Could this be better?  And by better FruHo means cheaper.  While The Frugal Hostess is making these for Christmas, they would make excellent birthday or Mother's Day gifts, or fun party favors for a baby or bridal shower.

A note on food coloring: So, you know how you've had the same four crusty bottles of food coloring next to your shaker of multi-colored sprinkles on the top shelf since your first apartment after college?  Well, TFH has some exciting news.  Umm, there are all kinds of new colors.  Neons ones.  Super exciting.  Get thee to the grocery store, post haste.

The Frugal Hostess hopes you bathe a lot. Like at least every other day.  Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

DIY XMAS: Wreath-Making Photo Essay








The wreaths did not turn out too cute, to be perfectly honest.  Such good intentions, but the little package wreath looks like something the Duggars would make during scary home school, and the other one -- while it has better style -- is too scrawny.  Luckily, you all appreciate The Frugal Hostess's transparency in recounting her many foibles and f***-ups.  Right?  Anyone there?

Is this thing on???

The Frugal Hostess needs a new wreath to make. Any ideas? You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday Soup Kitchen

Jiminy crickets, Christmas is freakin’ expensive! Even if you vow to shop sales all year, or to make all of your Christmas gifts, it is still SO expensive to give gifts and decorate. The other thing about the holiday season is that people tend to entertain, so you end up having a bunch of hostess gifts to buy and a bunch of busy, busy days trying to shop and cook and pack and party in appropriate measures. Picking out outfits for each event that are festive and stylish but still leave room for your inevitable post-hog-a-thon pooch – well, just thinking about it exhausts The Frugal Hostess.

And yet.

And yet, The Frugal Hostess always wants to have a holiday party. She is a Hostess, after all. It just seems like such a good idea – people are in a partying mood and the house is already decorated. No one minds if you bring a hangover to work a couple of times in December, and everyone needs an excuse to wear something glittery. So, what kind of party won’t annoy your friends or result in your suicide during the holiday season?

Why don’t you host a Holiday Soup Kitchen? (For your friends, rather than the poor. Or both.  Although they may be hard to distinguish.) This is the world’s most relaxed party.

Step One: Invite friends via email or Facebook. Make sure everyone can see the guest list, because you’re going to ask everyone to bring the most hideous gifts they received, and you don’t want hurt feelings. TFH suggests a time frame like 4:00pm to 8:00pm and some obvious wording about how people can stop in before or after other obligations.

Step Two: Get out or borrow a slow-cooker or two and make three kinds of soup (recipes and suggestions to follow). All of these soups can be made ahead and frozen, so FruHo would make big batches for a few weeks leading up to the party – half for you to eat, half for you to freeze.

Step Three: Go grocery shopping. In addition to the soup ingredients, you should buy a wedge of Parmesan cheese, a block of cheddar, oyster crackers, Fritos, sour cream, onion, and hot sauce to garnish the soups.

For side dishes and/or hors d’ oeuvres, choose two or three of these:

Raw Broccoli and Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Dip
(or cooked with butter and cheese. What? It’s the holidays.)
Collard Greens – great way to use leftover Thanksgiving ham bone
Green Salad
Sweet Potatoes – baked whole, fried, or roasted in wedges
Sliced Apples with Caramel Dip

Arrange the soups and sides on a buffet. The Frugal Hostess likes to use her kitchen table for this, since it’s close to the kitchen (duh), but you could use a sideboard, your coffee table, a kitchen counter, or a piece of plywood resting on saw horses. Just be sure to put a cloth over that last one. Have all the food out when the guests arrive.

For dessert, you will probably have an assortment of holiday baked good lying around the house. There is no shame in that game, Dear Readers. Arrange whatever you have on a platter or two and be done with it. If you haven’t been so blessed by the God of Fruit Cake and Sugar Cookies this year, this is an easy option. Get a big bag of oranges (should be cheap this time of year, since they’re in season) and a box of peppermint sticks. Not candy canes – get the softer, chalky sticks. Punch a little hole in the orange and push the peppermint stick inside. Arrange them on a tray and serve. Tell your guests to suck the orange juice through the peppermint stick – sounds gross, tastes great. Add some hot chocolate or cookies or something and call it a day.

Step Four: Organize your entertainment.

Gift Exchange: Set up a white elephant game for the unwanted regifts. If people are dropping in and out, tell each guest to drop one off and pick another one up to take. If your guests are there for the duration, play the game. Seriously, no one ever really remembers the rules for this. Everyone picks a number to determine what order the gifts will get selected. Number One picks a gift. Number Two picks a gift and can either keep it or steal the gift from Number One. House rules you will want to set: a gift can only be stolen a certain number of times, and the person who gets Number One gets to choose one last time after everyone has gone. Fun, fun, fun. (This game is the ONLY THING The Frugal Hostess misses about working in an office.)

Alternatively, you might want to ask guests to bring a toy to be donated in lieu of a hostess gift, or you might want to swear off any type of gift-giving. Whatever you decide, be gracious about it. Say something like, “We all have enough gifts to buy. Please consider your presence present enough and don’t bring a hostess gift,” or, “If you can’t stop yourself from bringing a hostess gift, how about a toy for a tot instead?” The point is to keep it inexpensive, not to boss people into making a charitable donation.

Music: Please, please, please, for the love of God, create a playlist of super-unusual and rarely heard Christmas music, or don’t play Christmas music at all. You are so much cooler than the average bear, so there is no doubt that you can whip up something appropriate but not annoying.

Children: If you are going to have children at your party, please make an area with an activity or two for them. You can set up a DVD player in an upstairs bedroom or put out a full array of craft supplies, but don’t expect that children won’t be bored out of their minds (and thus act like assholes) if you don’t think about them. They are your guests, too, and they deserve to have fun at a party as much as the next guy. Same goes for pets. The Frugal Hostess recommends giving your pet a new toy or bone when you have a party, as well as running your hyperactive dog around the block 40-60 times before guests arrive.

Other notes: This is a casual party, so don’t mess with people by listing the dress code as “Sparkly Casual” or “Dressy Low Key.” Just call a duck a duck and say casual. The Frugal Hostess would wear a velvet jacket, white tee-shirt, jeans, and boots to this party, maybe with more jewelry than usual. If people bring you gifts, you do have to write a thank you note, even if you asked them not to bring gifts. If you don’t normally decorate for Christmas (or don’t celebrate Christmas), put out a bunch of candles everywhere to set the tone for good times (and hide your dirty floors).

Soup recipes tomorrow!

The Frugal Hostess loves parties. It's true.  And embarrassing.  Please comment. You can also join the Frugalistas on Facebook for exclusive content, follow on Twitter @frugalhostess, or subscribe so that you always know when a new post appears.

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