Archive for the ‘Affordable’ category

A Saturday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

September 5, 2011

On Saturday my fiance and I decided to go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire– a supposedly cool city just an hour’s drive from Boston. We got there around noon, walked around for a few minutes and then stopped at the River House for lunch. Although the restaurant’s on the water, we decided to eat inside because it was so hot out. The highlight of the meal was certainly the seafood chowder, which is shown in this picture.

It contained lobster, scallops, shrimp, clams and haddock, and was so so good. I guess that’s no surprise considering it won first place awards at the 2009/2010 Portsmouth Chowder Festival. The above picture also shows my fiance’s tasty lobster roll and hand cut potato chips. I had a lobster Lorraine quiche with a house salad.

Everything was fantastic! And they even gave us a free bowl of chowder (sort of an accident, but we gladly accepted)! After lunch we got some coffee at Breaking New Grounds in Market Square. We vowed to return later in the day (they had tons of delicious-looking pastries and gelato), and we did. Look at these gelato flavor combinations we came up with.

Hazelnut chocolate and strawberry chocolate

It would have been nice to sit outside of the coffee shop and people watch, but alas it was too hot. These photos will give you a feel for Market Square:

We walked around for a while, went shopping and saw some cool things.

A mural

A bridge going up

A fountain

A church

A quaint restaurant nestled in a back alley

Frogs doing yoga

Nice streets like this one

A physic studio

I got a couple of shirts for super-cheap in this consignment shop.

And we discovered a beautiful garden area.

My fiance in the garden area

Me in the garden area

Turns out this area is called Prescott Park. It’s right near an old cemetery, with gravestones dating to the 17th century.

It’s not far from the water either.

On our way back to the car we came across the Oracle House, one of Portsmouth’s oldest homes (circa 1702).

And the Liberty Pole, a flagpole commemorating our freedom from British rule. At this location in 1766 colonists hung a banner reading “Liberty, Property and No Stamp” to protest King George’s Stamp Act (it imposed taxes on newspapers, stationary and documents).

We saw this just before leaving. It pretty much sums up our experience in Portsmouth.

No, Arm & Hammer is not paying me

June 5, 2011

I’ve never really liked my hair. It frizzes so easily. But lately, I’ve disliked it more than usual. I think it all started when I got a perm in January. I started using a special leave-in conditioner to keep my hair moisturized. The problem is I think it led to product buildup on my scalp (I probably should have just used it on the ends of my hair).

I stopped using the leave-in conditioner, yet the buildup wouldn’t go away. It was so annoying– I always felt like my hair was so dirty (even right after showering). I would just put it up in a ponytail so I didn’t have to deal with it. Finally, I decided to research how to fix the problem. I simply looked online, and came across tons of sites advocating baking soda.

So, this morning I put a small amount of shampoo in my hand, and added a quarter-size amount of baking soda. I mixed the two together, and lathered them into my hair. I was sure to rub the mixture across every inch of my scalp, as well as rub as much hair as possible. I also made sure to thoroughly wash the mixture out of my hair.

I blow dried my hair and voila, the buildup was entirely gone (I could actually feel it was gone when my hair was still damp). I feel so great today, and am thinking of wearing my hair down (this is a big deal for me!). Yeah, I’m so happy to have discovered baking soda as a hair product. My only question is: How often should I used it? Also, should I supplement it with a clarifying shampoo (another piece of advice on the Internet)?

My first BzzAgent review: about.me

May 23, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently started working as a copywriter for a social marketing company called BzzAgent. Also known as a word-of-mouth marketing company, BzzAgent enlists hundreds of thousands of “agents” to discuss brands and products (L’Oreal, Michelin, and Unilever are just a few of its clients).

The agents receive free products, free services, and discounts. I signed up to be an agent (also called a “BzzAgent”) to see what’s it’s all about (you can do so as well). After filling out some surveys, I was invited to the “about.me” campaign. About.me lets you put multiple online profiles (including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Flickr profiles) in one place.

I created an about.me page at about.me/christinelaubenstein. You decide which profiles and/or links you want to include on your page. I added my Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, Vimeo, YouTube, and Tumblr accounts (granting about.me access to my posts, updates, videos, etc.), but I declined to allow access to my Facebook info (including profile information, status updates, and friends’ photos).

For me, my Facebook page is a relatively private space I don’t want strangers to see. I did, however, opt to add a link to my Facebook page (in case someone wants to friend me). You can link to other pages if you’d like, or add other profiles (Blogger, Posterous, Flickr, TypePad, Formspring, Last.fm, Daily Booth, and Instagram).

You can also personalize your background, font colors, fonts, and biography. Other features include statistics about your accounts and about.me page, ideas for promoting your about.me page, and a place to add your favorite about.me pages. I haven’t yet used all these features, but I’ll still provide my initial thoughts about about.me:

  • It’s a neat idea. Unless you have your own website/blog, I don’t know of any service that lets you list such a wide variety of profiles (LinkedIn, for example, just has fields for three websites, your Twitter account, and your IM screen names). Not to mention the other services don’t let you see content from all your accounts.
  • I like how you can personalize your page.
  • It’s good from an SEO standpoint. You can use about.me to submit your about.me page to Bing, Google, and Yahoo. I did this about two weeks ago, and at least for Google my about.me page already appears on the second page of search results when my name is queried. So creating an about.me page can help push down negative links (if you have them, of course).
  • I’m not sure sure how much time I’ll devote to my page. I have a personal blog and professional website that already allow me to add my Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. info. So if I have these sites I’ve already invested in, why do I need about.me? I guess I could use about.me to have all my content in one place. But at this point, I don’t see a huge benefit. Clicking on a link to access my content (at its source) takes one second.

Peach Riesling sangria

April 17, 2011

Me drinking peach Riesling sangria

A few weeks ago I made sangria for the first time. I hadn’t heard back from a sangria-making friend of mine about how she makes it, so I researched recipes online. I wanted to find one that didn’t involve adding sugar, fancy alcohols, or carbonated beverages. I came across a recipe that fit all of these requirements; it also included Dole peach/mango/orange juice, one of my favorite 100-percent juices. An added benefit was it called for Riesling, a wine type I highly enjoy.

The recipe is from an Illinois wine and cheese shop’s website (it’s the third recipe on the page). The first ingredient is two bottles of Riesling (it calls for a specific Riesling, but I just picked one that was very affordable). I actually bought two 1.5-liter bottles of Riesling, as I was making the recipe for a fair amount of people. You mix the wine with frozen raspberries, orange pieces, peach pieces, lemon pieces, and some of the juice (check the recipe for quantities). You cover the drink, refrigerate it, and serve it cold.

My grocery store didn’t have peaches, so I replaced them with mangoes (but I can still call my concoction “peach Riesling sangria” because it contained peach juice). I was very happy with the outcome and would highly recommend the recipe to anyone.

Take that thief– I’m getting new things!

April 12, 2011

Almost a month ago my car was burglarized by an unknown meanie. As I mentioned in this blog post, I lost a lot of valuable items. Well, I have a small sense of relief knowing I can replace some of these possessions. My insurance company has given me some money for new purchases. Here’s what I’ve bought so far:

Flower flip flops from the Dress Barn

Somewhat-funky socks from the Dress Barn

Silver and gold earrings from the Dress Barn

Capri pants from Kohl's

A dress from Kohl's

New Balance sneakers from Filene's Basement

My friend Jeannie helped me pick out the first five items, and my fiance helped me pick out the sneakers. I look forward to getting a new GPS, some shorts, and some short-sleeved shirts (all items that were stolen) in the near future.

Going to Charleston, South Carolina? Then stay at The Anchorage Inn

March 25, 2011

I already mentioned that my fiance surprised me by booking a room at The Anchorage Inn in Charleston, South Carolina instead of the Days Inn. Well, I find it necessary to expand upon the awesomeness that is The Anchorage Inn. Until last week I’d never stayed at quite a place. Let me list some of the bed and breakfast’s notable characteristics.

  • The inn is on Vendue Range in the heart of Charleston’s historic district. Not to mention it’s just steps from a fountain, park, pier, and Charleston Bay.
  • The Anchorage Inn is affordable. According to my fiance, it’s just $20 per night more expensive than the Days Inn. It’s funny because the other hotels on Vendue Range are much pricier. Sure, they might have doorkeepers and valets, but if you can do without those frills The Anchorage Inn will save you major moolah.
  • The inn takes you back in time. Originally built as a cotton warehouse around 1840, the building is furnished with handcrafted reproductions of seventeenth century English decor (the area was settled by the English in 1670).

This picture shows some of the sitting room's decor.

A lamp in our room

  • Staff are friendly. There’s always someone sitting at the front desk, ready to answer any questions you may have. Our first day in Charleston a young man helped us figure out which beach to visit. In fact, he firmly suggested we check out Folly Beach and the nearby Morris Island Lighthouse. We appreciated his assurance, especially because the outing proved wonderful.
  • Daily breakfasts are included in the price. Breakfast is served between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.; meal items include orange juice, grapefruit juice, coffee, cereal, fruit, yogurt, bagels, biscuits and gravy, danishes, and muffins.

Biscuit with gravy

  • Daily wine and cheeses are included in the price. This was one of my favorite parts of the vacation. Each day, starting at 4 p.m., the inn served complimentary wine (red and white), cheese (including cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, and Swiss cheese), and crackers. As we enjoyed our food and drink in the sitting room, we conversed with Anchorage Inn guests from all over the country and even world (e.g. we met a couple from England and a woman from Malaysia). We made so many new friends.

Wine and cheese table

  • Nightly sherries are included in the price. Every evening, from 8 to 11 p.m., the hotel provides sherry for its guests. Either before or after dinner you can stop by the sitting room, enjoy a glass (or two) of the cordial, and chat with anyone else who happens to stop by. Although these weren’t as popular as the wine and cheeses, we highly enjoyed them.

Enjoying my sherry

In short, be sure to stay at The Anchorage Inn if you’re ever traveling to Charleston!!!

I can be pretty low-maintenance when it comes to food

March 6, 2011

I look in my fridge, take out some Tupperware containers, and make up a plate like this:

Triscuit crackers, nicoise olives, cheddar cheese, asparagus, and dried fruit

 

Looking to save some money? One solution is making your own iced coffee.

January 31, 2011

My fiance drinks iced coffee pretty much every day, and he used to only buy it from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, or another coffee shop. But now he’s primarily making his own. It’s easy to make, it tastes comparably good, and it’s clearly saving us money.

We put hot coffee in this thermos (after making the coffee in our trusty Mr. Coffee machine), place the thermos in the fridge, and after an hour and a half the coffee is ready. Just add ice and voila, you're set.

Let’s see about how much we’re saving. I would say that an iced coffee, on average, costs $1.80 at a coffee shop. Let’s hold that thought for a minute. Now, yesterday I bought a 33.9-ounce container of Chock full o’ Nuts coffee for $7. According to Kmart’s website, 33.9 ounces of coffee can make up to 270 cups of coffee. Well, since we like our coffee fairly strong, we’ll say the canister makes 200 cups of coffee.

Seven dollars divided by 200 is 3.5 cents. So making our own iced coffee costs us 3.5 cents per cup, compared with $1.80 at a coffee shop. That’s a savings of about $1.76 per cup, and a savings of about $642 over the course of a whole year (provided you drink one iced coffee a day). That’s fairly significant, I’d say. While making your own iced coffee requires you to think ahead, you also save gas money (by not having to drive to a coffee shop), and help out the environment (by not using and throwing away a plastic coffee container).

Lemon flounder with capers

January 26, 2011

Lemon flounder with capers and white rice

Craving a yummy fish meal but don’t have a l0t of time? If this is your situation, consider making the lemon flounder with capers recipe I tried out last night. The fish was very well perfumed with the various seasonings (garlic, dill, lemon zest, pepper, olive oil, and capers), and the whole recipe took about 10 minutes.

I based the recipe off one in my new cookbook, “The Everything Mediterranean Cookbook.” I changed three things. The recipe called for sole, but I used flounder instead. Shaw’s had run out of sole, and the fish guy said flounder is quite similar. The second change was instead of using one and a half pounds of fish, I used one pound. I was just cooking for my fiance and I, not for six people (which the recipe is based on). The last modification was using a teaspoon of capers instead of a half-teaspoon. You can never have enough capers, right (but really, a half-teaspoon is practically nothing)?

Here’s the adjusted recipe (for two):

3 cloves garlic

3 sprigs fresh dill, leaves only

1 pound flounder

Black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon fresh-grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon capers

1. Preheat oven broiler. Mince the garlic and chop the dill.

2. Place the flounder on a pan; sprinkle with garlic, pepper, lemon zest, and drizzle with the oil.

3. Place under broiler for three minutes.

4. Turn the fish carefully.

5. Broil for one minute longer.

6. Remove from broiler and top with dill and capers.

This dish surely goes well with white wine, but I had it with some Samuel Smith oatmeal stout. It was the perfect combination, though I’m convinced this beer would go well with most anything.

And on a side note, does anyone know what’s up with fresh green beans? They are never in Shaw’s anymore, and Stop & Shop didn’t have them the other day either. I’m also looking for a place that sells rhubarb (fresh or frozen).

Yeah for yuppie nachos!

November 28, 2010

Christopher's in Cambridge's Porter Square sells "yuppie nachos."

I tried Christopher’s “yuppie nachos” the other night (read about my love for Christopher’s in this blog post). In addition to tortilla chips, here’s what they include:

  • melted cheddar, jack and goat cheese
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • guacamole

How’s that for a fantabulous combination? It tasted just as good as it sounds. For my main course, to make up for the somewhat unhealthy appetizer, I had a Christopher’s salad (just $3.95!). It includes:

  • seasonal greens
  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • sliced red onion
  • Kalamata olives

It came with some sort of Dijon mustard dressing that was quite tasty. I was really happy to have ordered this salad because a) it was delicious and b) it wasn’t jumbo-sized like most salads I’m accustomed to getting at restaurants.


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