Monday, November 24, 2008

Keeping your Math Skills Sharp and Your Waist Thin... or attempting to, anyway

Last night Columbia was jonesing for some cookies. Trying to please (appease?) my DH and avoid him running to Duane Reade to splurge, I checked out the cupboard. It occurred to me that a quarter batch of oatmeal raisin cookies wouldn't ruin our efforts at losing the last of the baby weight (8 1/2 months later...) or take too much time.

As any dieter knows, 1/2 an egg is one egg white. Making my own baby food for Pumpkin has taught me that 2 tbsps is 1/8 cup and 3 tsps equals 1 tbsp. And my former 2nd graders would have been proud to hear me realizing, If a quarter cup is one fourth of a cup then 3 of those would be one fourth of 3 cups! Math skills, I've still got 'em!

The batch made 9 cookies: 3 for both Columbia and I last night, and 3 for Columbia's lunch today. This is definitely a trick I'll use in the future... but hopefully not again tonight.

Photo used under creative commons license from Flickr user Ruthieki.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Anyone still remember Thanksgiving?

Is Christmas coming earlier than ever this year? I don't ever remember hearing holiday music before Thanksgiving, but it's being piped in already. It's a shame that Thanksgiving kind of gets overlooked.

One of the most fun things about living where we do, is waking up Thanksgiving morning, grabbing a bagel and heading out to the Macy's parade. Since it starts at 77th and Central Park West (which is 40 blocks or about 2 miles) from Macy's, the event is still exciting but a little less "showy" than what you see on TV. The stars don't sing, but the floats go past, the dancers and musicians are giving it their all, and of course, the balloons are the stars of the show. It makes me feel like a little kid each year, and it's so exciting to see and hear the (um, actual) children voice their amazement.

Our locals' tips:

  1. Bring a knosh. Bagel, coffee, egg sammie... gotta fuel up before hand.
  2. Don't even try for the park-side of Central Park West -- in fact, I have no idea how to get there if I wanted to.
  3. Go to a wider street -- 72nd has always been good to me. Because the street is wider, you get to see the balloons for a longer period of time, and it helps alleviate any claustrophobia...
  4. Get there at least 15 minutes before start time on a cold morning, a little earlier if it's unseasonably warm. Although one rainy year, we showed up at go-time and walked up to the street.
  5. Go the day before.
What?? What does that mean, "go the day before?". Watch the balloons get blown up on 77th and 81st streets between Central Park West and Columbus (the side streets to the American Museum of Natural History). The earlier you show up, the better, as it gets PACKED just after work. It is one of those wonderful things we found out about by accident. Take someone who's never gone to the Macy's Parade "behind the scenes."

This is Columbus Avenue at 79th street, 8:30pm in 2005. Two blocks to go in these throngs before we see the first balloon (the yellow star in the distance, left).

I realize that the economy isn't necessarily driven by Thanksgiving, though it might help out the travel industry, and turkey (and tofurky) farmers. Any holiday where you're expected to eat stuffing seems deserving of my attention. Well, at least until International Bacon Day gets officially recognized.
(I had to look. Of course there is one, and of course I missed it this year. Rats.)

link: Thanksgiving Day Parade [on Macy's site]

Friday, November 21, 2008

Making the Economic Crisis Work for You

There is no denying that times are rough. Money is in short supply and everything (except gas?) is costing more. However, there are a few ways that all of this can be to your advantage.

1. Ebay
No, not to sell. To buy! Northern Cheapskate posted about Ebay being a buyers market. Everyone is trying to sell they excess and it's a great opportunity to get a few things you need for less.

2. Giveaways

Everyone is blogging now, and most are trying to make a few bucks doing it. One of the ways bloggers are trying to attract attention to their site is by offering giveaways. While I'm not willing to do much for the virtual equivalent to a raffle, I am willing to leave a comment. It only takes a few seconds and it is not as much a waste of my time as watching The View. Some blogs even host space for other bloggers to post their giveaways. You can access lists of giveaways here, here and here.

3. Door Busting Deals
My heart races with thought of those 2 magic words: Black Friday. We've had great success finding deals on tv's and when shopping for items for a large group or charity (if you've ever adopted an entire class of students to provide Christmas gifts for, you'll give me a big 'AMEN!' here). Many sites list Black Friday ads as they are released (or leaked), but here's one of my favorites. Toys R Us has had 2 day sales the past 4 weekends and each one gets a little bigger. With retailers hoping to stay afloat, deals are bountiful. If you need something, there's a great chance you can get it for a good price.

4. CDs
While many banks are going under, others are also looking for you to invest your cash to help them out - while paying you for it, of course. Citibank and AIG are both bouncing between 3-4% interest rates for a 6 month CD. If you aren't going to need all of your savings immediately, why not earn a little bit more off of it? Worst case scenario, you have to withdraw the money from the cd early and you loose a month's interest. Even if your money has been in the cd a month, you'll still at least break even. Check on the rules with your bank, and make sure your bank is FDIC insured.

5. Etsy
With a possible return to DIYing, many are trying to sell their handmade goods on Etsy. If you're looking for a special handmade gift, but don't have the skills (or time or desire or...) Etsy shops might be able to help you and your wallet out.

Have you found other ways to make the economic slump work for you? If so, let us all know!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The AMNH Climate Change Exhibit: become more educated & renew your personal commitment

I took Pumpkin to the American Museum of Natural History today on a whim. It's rainy here in nyc but I wanted to get out of the apt. We haven't been to the museum in quite a while so I björned up Pumpkin and headed off.

I also went to the Climate Change exhibit on a whim. It's free for members (one of the 2 special exhibits that are and I was not impressed with the other previously...), since Columbia and I are members, I decided it was at least worth a walk-through.

I wasn't expecting what I saw. Not only is the exhibit extremely well crafted visually, but it's chalked full of information for all types of learners and personalities. It also doesn't dwell purely on the negative (of which many already know a lot about because of Al Gore), but offers a multitude of ways to improve the current problem both globally and personally. Seeing so many ways in which I can make a difference renewed my desire to live a greener life.

One 'greener' idea that I've been toying with for a while is getting some drying racks and having Columbia rig a clothes line in the bedrooms. It will save us a lot of money, add humidity to a very dry area of the apartment and save energy. How can we go wrong? In fact, I've decided that this is what I'm going to put on my Christmas list!

JC's Christmas Wishlist
1 - laundry rope
2 - two drying racks
3 - a large bag of wooden clothespins
4 - hooks to rig up the clothesline and a willing husband to execute said rigging

While the exhibit is free for members, it's a pretty penny otherwise. If you plan on visiting the AMNH frequently in the next year, I'd highly recommend a membership as it's mostly tax deductible and full of great perks - this exhibit being on of them.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular... if only there was an even better word to describe it

I love, love, love the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Go ahead and call me cheesy and sentimental. Or mental. It really is wonderful, though, and guaranteed to give you chills and put a smile on your face. It might even be responsible for making NYC a kinder and gentler place during the holiday season.

"Okay, okay", you say "But why blog about it today? There are still 47 days until Christmas." Today is the first show for the 2008 season! Really. And as any savvy New Yorker knows, it's the early bird that gets the good deals. Check out their schedule and use promotion code 54ORCHWEB to get 25% off. This may only apply to non-peak days (those whose lowest price seats start at $42). If we find another code we'll let you know. If you know of one, please email us or leave the info in the comments section.

I can't wait until Pumpkin is old enough to enjoy this! It really is one of those New York City musts.

UPDATE!!! (12/3/08)
I just got an email with a code for 50% off tickets! Use code DECBOGO and you can find the elligible perfomances here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Amazon takes away your pain, gives you money.

Amazon has launched a "Frustration-Free Packaging" initiative to save you frustration and money. Get a load of this: In the spirit of the lazy environmentalist (“I'll be green, just don't expect me to alter my habits”), Amazon worked with manufacturers and has found a way to:

  • ...give you the same great quality products
  • ...let you order the same (same shipping, same process)
  • ...deliver these products in packaging that results in less waste
  • ...get rid of "did-they-make-this-barbie-%#@$%ing-secure-enough!?" twisty-ties
  • ...get rid of "I-need-a-boxcutter-to-open-this-boxcutter" blisterpacks
  • ...even save you a few pennies at the same time
Check out this video that shows two adults who have pirate ship fetishes. The time savings is less motivating to me than the savings in sanity (I hate blisterpacks) and the reduction of waste. Saving money is never a bad thing either!

Check out Amazon's full list of frustration-free packaging. I'm telling you, one of these days I'm going to come home and find that has sent me some cookies and a homemade blanket. What a sweet bunch of folks...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Will the Economic Climate Lead to Your DIY Renaissance?

Lifehacker posted recently about how The "Greater Depression" Can be a DIY Renaissance and referenced 2 bloggers who are seeing and living this trend. While Columbia and I have been feeling the pinch, it is not solely because of the ecomonic problems facing our nation. I chose to stay home with Pumpkin and cut our income in half. This makes our financial struggles self-imposed, but they are still real.

While we have always enjoyed the idea of diy projects in the past, we have definitely kicked it up a notch these past 2 months. A limited income has actually made us appreciate what can come from out hands and encourages us to diy more often, and in more adventurous ways. Here are a few examples:

1. We make our own bread. I tried it to see if I could do it. Then I realized how easy it is with a kitchen aid mixer. We keep meaning to break it down into 'cost per loaf' but haven't yet. This has expanded into making pizza dough, bread sticks and french bread.

The first loaf - my shaping ability has improved, as has the taste of the bread! Practice really does make perfect in the case.

2. We make Pumpkins baby food. Part of it is cost, but most of it is knowing what she's eating (other than stuff on the floor that is). There is so much enjoyment in making it for her, too.

A sampling of food from the freezer - 1 cube ends up being tbsp so we know eactly how much she's getting.

3. I made Pumpkins Halloween Costume. I posted about it here. It has really encouraged me to attempt to make more of her clothes... as soon as I get a chance!

At the end of her first Halloween - What else could Our Little Pumpkin be but a pumpkin?

Has the economic situation made you think more about DIY projects? If so, we'd love to hear about it... or see it!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Chewed Up and Spit Out Before the Election

...As seen in Times Square last weekend. I love the idea of the sign by itself, but the willingness of people to participate is what I love most!

Visit the site behind the poster at, and see how people around the world are casting their votes.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pier of Fears and the NY Marathon... free, free, free fun

If you're not Halloween-ed out and are still on that sugar high from all of the candy, you might want to check out Pier of Fears at Hudson River Park's Pier 54 (west 14th st).  There are many free activities, including the largest free haunted house in the city, from 12 - 9 today and tomorrow.

Tomorrow (Nov 2, 2008) is the ING NYC Marathon.  Anywhere along the route is an amazing spot to cheer on the runners.  We don't know anyone running it this year to track, but we'll watch the beginning on tv at 9 before going out to cheer on the finishers.  The UWS is always filled with such energy as the race is ending up.  Nearly enough to make one start training for next year... nearly.