travel, hike, eat. repeat.

my adventures are often on a budget… and always clumsy.

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

grand ole hiatus

Times are changing! STUFF is happening! All in the same week, I accepted a job offer, put in my notice, my roommate Ellie accepted a job in New York, my other roommate Matt & I signed a lease on a new apartment and I’ve worked like a crazy person packing, cleaning and preparing feature stories for the Republican National Convention in TAMPA, my FINAL coverage as a producer!

WHEW.

So I’ve been absent. I apologize. I love this little blog, and I have big dreams for it. I want to hire someone to redesign it, buy a domain like a big-kid blogger(!) and delve deeper into the world of exquisite budget living. But until I can do that, I have to take pause to get through these next two weeks or so of big time changes… and the RNC. Did I mention that? I will be crashing the Grand Old Party, and it will undoubtedly be a memorable last hurrah.

So – see you on the flip side. Pinky promise.

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friday’s letters

Dear Self, You’ve been a stressed out mess lately, not your best self. Exercising, writing and splurging on a yoga class here and there will help tremendously. Do it. Feel joyous again. Dear Tiff Yoshi, We’ve poured our hearts and souls to each other over curry dinners in our small Japanese kitchens. We’ve belted “I don’t want to miss a thing” driving around in the dead of night in cars we weren’t sure would make it those last miles home. We’ve danced, we’ve swam in more beaches than I can count, we’ve claimed an island as our own (hi Kris Nand!) and we’ve laughed until we’ve cried together. You’re getting married this weekend, and even though my body is in D.C., my heart and soul and tears, oh definitely there will be tears! are with you in Hawaii. I love you, and I miss you. Congratulations! PS – Send pictures. Dear Summer, You’ve been the stuff of story books. Don’t end too soon, okay?

Link up for friday’s letters at Adventures of Newlyweds.
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how to survive a work week for $10

Is surviving an entire Monday-Friday work week on a budget of $10 possible?

Kinda.

I’m broke, and it is no joke. I budget fastidiously, and somehow I still found myself struggling a full 10 days out from my next paycheck. How is that even possible?!

I know some of you feel my pain. I hope so at least. I hope I’m not the only young professional out here in a big city with an education and a job title that promises more than it delivers, struggling to manage the above national averages rent with overburdening student loans. BREATHE.

I know I’m not alone. And this pay period I decided to make do instead of transferring that small bit of money I had put into savings back into my checking account. I would live off of what was in my fridge and $10 Monday – Friday.

I knew the key would be not. eating. out. That’s tough for me; I love eating out (who doesn’t?!), though it does help that I like to cook.

I ate breakfast at home three out of the five days. I ran late on Monday and Wednesday and grabbed breakfast near the office (eek!). That added up to $6.10.

Monday night I had book club. I stuck to drinking water and excused myself immediately following our discussion to make dinner at home, instead of staying to socialize over cocktails. I left a $2.00 tip.

Tuesday night, Zander and I made dinner together using ingredients we already had: $0.00. On Thursday night, I made a quick dinner and popped open a bottle of wine we had at the house and vegged with my roommate and friend Ellie: $0.00.

I brought my lunch every day, but on Tuesday, I supplemented my salad with french fries (groannn, SERIOUS weakness!). That came to $3.30.

Grand total for the week: $11.40.

I went $1.40 over, but I’m proud of how close I came to my goal!

How I feel after this week?

I’ll be honest: 50/50. I got bored a few times of what I brought for lunch. I felt like a drag at book club meeting. At times, I felt as constrained as I was.

On the plus side, I exercised self-discipline, something I can lack. It also feels good to look at my bank account and know that I’ve stuck to my budget. And, as an added perk, I lost 2 pounds this week from cutting out eating out.

Next pay check, I’ll be even more diligent about my budget, trying to ensure 10 days out, I’m not holding my breath for the next one.

mango and avocado summer salad

Blame it on August’s unforgiving heat for my cravings of all things juicy and sweet, but lately nothing has sounded more delightful and refreshing than fresh mango.

Mango is my favorite fruit, by from-here-to-Africa far. Impossibly, I didn’t try mango until the old, old age of 23! I visited a friend and her family in Waikiki several summers back (ROUGH life, I know). Every afternoon, we’d return from the beach sun and water-logged, and my friend’s Mom would hand us a mango straight from the mango tree in their front yard, cut and seeded. (Scouts honor, I didn’t make that up! That really happens in Hawaii!) Ever since then, I’ve been hooked like fish on bait.

As much as I love mango, it’s the only fruit that comes to mind that I have no clue whatsoever how to handle. How do you get rid of the skin? And maneuver the giant pit? And how, oh how, pray tell, do you cut it?!

Fortunately, I have Chef Boyfriend, who is a spectacular mango cutter. Pair my love of mango with Chef Boyfriend’s love of avocado, and you have yourself a summer salad in the making. Tuesday night we joined forces for dinner, and by that I mean, I brought him a mango and an avocado, and he made me dinner. Voila!

I challenged myself to live off the contents of my fridge and $10 this work week, from Monday-Friday afternoon. Fortunately, I had a mango, avocado and red onion from last week’s Green Grocer box, making this an easy meal to keep within my cheap to free range! (Check back here on Friday to see if I survived the week!)

Zan paired our mango and avocado salad with roasted pork loin and okra. We opened a bottle of Chardonnay, and dinner was served.

This salad is refreshing, beautiful and inexpensive. If you can manage cutting the mango, the rest is simple enough for non-cooks and refreshing enough to make those hot summer nights bearable.

From the Food Network:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 mangos, cubed
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large serving bowl, whisk together vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in oil. Toss in mangoes, avocado and red onion to coat. Serve immediately.

ps – Anyone want to teach me how to cut a mango?

an ode to honey pig

There’s something about cuisine that’s an experience that automatically makes it better to me.

Take me to a sushi joint, and while I’ll pick around the seaweed and seafood, I’ll dive into a lettuce and Generic Asian Dressing salad with chopsticks like you’ve taken me to an amusement park. I love eating with chopsticks.

The same is true with Ethiopian food. The goal is to eat with your hands; it’s not even an etiquette faux pas!

And then there’s Korean BBQ, the creme de la creme of experiential eating.

When I taught English in Japan, I lived as far south as you can get on the main island. I was so far south that I lived a shorter distance to Korea than to Tokyo or even Kyoto. I could hop on a ferry and be in Bhusan or Seoul in a few hours.

I visited Korea three times. Each time, I ate like a person who wants to weigh 800 pounds and be airlifted out of their house. I ate like a psycho. My favorite food was, naturally, the famed Korean BBQ.

The BBQ restaurants in Korea are colorful and bright. My favorite has murals covering the walls (Whoopie Goldberg stars in one!), grills sporadically placed on a cement floor and smoke-stained, flimsy plastic chairs. You’re given an expletive ton of “banchan,” or side dishes, including lettuce for wraps. Servers place large slabs of various meats on the grill and hand you scissors. You cut your own meat, and pick it off with chopsticks when it’s to your preferred temperature. It’s a feeding frenzy; the early bird gets the worm and all that. You can’t be shy!

When I moved back to the States, I missed Korean BBQ a lot. When I learned that Annandale, or “Koreatown” is only a 30 minute drive from D.C., I was chomping at the bit to try it.

It didn’t disappoint! Honey Pig, the most popular of the BBQ joints in Annandale, exceeds expectations. From the cement floors to Korean staff to funky decor and loud pop music, it’s a restaurant straight out of the Hongik neighborhood in Seoul. The only major difference I noticed is the servers cut your meat for you instead of handing over the shears.

I had the fun experience of introducing Zan to Korean BBQ when we first started dating (built in conversation starters + interactive dinner = a great date spot!). We went back this weekend with my friend John Michael, a veritable Korean food expert, and we introduced Matt to it. We ordered two cold noodle soups, pork belly, beef tips, spicy pork, pork & squid and rice. We don’t play around when it comes to meat! I can still taste the spicy sauce, garlic and kimichi, or fermented cabbage (that’s so good I swear they import it straight from Korea!).

When I ate out in Korea, I spent $8-10 on that exact meal (including alcohol!). Pretty nuts, huh? Here in the States I expected it to run a good $40-$50, so I was seriously stoked when, for all that food, plus a bottle of Soju (Korean-style vodka), we paid $25 each with a generous tip, both times I’ve been.

Honey Pig. It’s what’s for dinner.

Sutbol, a great locals restaurant in Hongik, Seoul.

Korean BBQ (galbi style) in Seoul. (photo is a friend’s – request for reuse)

My first galbi lettuce wrap (forgive that crazy face!)

BBQ at Honey Pig.

Ordering: Honey Pig has English and pictures on some of their menus. See their English menu online.

call me [bond, bauer, chuck]: a pick your own spy adventure

There’s a bomb somewhere in D.C., and unless you find the terrorist and disarm the explosive, the bomb will detonate.

Matt, Randall and I listened to our mission brief outside the International Spy Museum on handheld GPS units, our Handler careful to inform us that we must stay alert and always. be. careful. We sprinted across the street, following instructions uncovered from our first text from a spy contact within the city. We were Operation: CatBird, the longer of the two Spy Museum’s “Spy in the City” missions, clocking in at 1.5 hours and about same distance radius around the Museum.

We scanned for fingerprints, deciphered messages out of seemingly regular text and tested our memory and skills of observance. Okay, those were all the gimmicky (though often entertaining) bits. What was genuinely fun was learning about the city.

Both Spy in the City missions take you to buildings you’ve probably never noticed or about which you don’t know much. We explored the FBI building, learned where the first bank of D.C. is located and delved into the meaning of quotes on statues we’d never before seen. But let me stop before I give you too many hints…

Spy in the City is listed as $14.95/person, but you can do it cheaper. The website doesn’t tell you exactly if each player needs their own device or if you play as a team. If you ask, they’ll encourage you to “compete” individually, as you each receive a “spy score” at the end, based on data we could NOT understand (I won but figured out clues slower than Matt & Randall in several instances!). We gave up attempting to compete at the first clue; it’s much more fun if you embrace it together.

Protip: pay for one device, and have your team meet you outside the Museum. Alternatively, we thought it’d be fun to pair up and compete with friends that way. Make sure to also check Goldstar, as they’ve had discounted tickets before!

Would I do a Spy in the City Mission again? Probably not.

Am I glad I did it? Sure! We ramped up our own excitement, creating extensive cover stories and embraced using our imaginations.

We commented multiple times that it would be a great activity for a teen or pre-teen. I’m sure that’s probably what they intend….

A regular night deposit drop box or the source of CHEMICAL TRACES?

An encrypted message lies within these familiar words…

These spies like their picture taken.

 

 

 

the pinny-pincher’s prosecco

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t about cheap Prosecco, it’s about Prosecco that’s cheap!

Calvert Woodley Fine Wine & Spirits, a great wine ship in the, well, Calvert/Woodley neighborhood, is having a huge anniversary sale that features, among other things, Valdo Prosecco for $9.99 (usually $12-13). Zan grabbed a bottle of it the night we left before vacation last week (we toast to impending toasts). Both his refined and my amateur palettes couldn’t get enough. And I mean that. We’re going back for a case.

The sale ends tomorrow (apologies for the late notice!) so make sure to capitalize on affordable bubbly while you can!

Cheers!

friday’s letters

Dear Matt, Thankyouthankyouthankyou with no breaths between for all your input and excitement on my job application project this week. You have this unique gift of truly caring about what’s going on in your friend’s lives, no matter how mundane it may be. Dear Zan’s Goddaughter, you warmed my heart and then stole it right out of my chest. I think you made me a believer in love at first sight. Dear Hilton Head, I always thought I couldn’t get enough beach time, but on this vacation, I couldn’t get enough of your afternoon thunderstorms. I can’t wait for you to rain on me again. Dear J&S, Y’all welcomed me in without hesitation and made me feel like family. You turned the nerves into a fast smile. Dear Zan, Teddy Grahams and wake up “calls” and sunburns and blueberry muffins and a new side of you. I can’t wait to do it all again… in Mexico/Costa Rica/but really Mexico. Dear women’s all-around competition, That was the meet of a lifetime. Aly, you’re a winner. Dear potential job, Fingers crossed.

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