Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sick in the City

I've spent the last two days sick in bed. Usually, I'm quite proud of my solid immune system, but when I do get hit, it tends to be hard, and this is no exception.

In a city of over 8 million, we're bound to get hit with more germs than in the country. So, whenever I feel something coming on, I usually swear by Emergen-C with a drop of echinaeca, Advil, and hydrogen peroxide in the ears.

If you're not familiar with the approach, a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in each ear allowed to sit for ten minutes is a theory suggested to help clear up germs. It's really wild -- if the hydrogen peroxide is killing something, it bubbles and pops the same way it does on an infected cut, but you can feel and hear it so clearly in the ear. Sometimes it feels like a mini volcano. But even if there's nothing to kill, hydrogen peroxide also clears out ear wax more safely than a Q-tip does. Just don't do it too often, as some doctors warn that a little ear wax is good for helping to keep out germs.

There isn't much real data that confirms that any of my favored immune system boosters actually work, but I believe I've warded off many a potential cold with them. Unfortunately, they don't work every time, and it seems that these germs were just too strong. Now that I've been hit hard, I've been lucky to be taken care of well by my wife and my pup, but here are the other things that have been getting me through being sick in NYC, if you'd like to see...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Giveaway Winner!

Photo credit: Something New
Congratulations, Kelly H. for winning the Something New Jewelry Cleaner Giveaway!
(Kelly H, please email LuxeAusterity@gmail.com for details.)

Thank you to all who entered -- don't forget there's a free shipping code "Luxe" to use at checkout at Something New Jewelry Cleaner!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Frugal Food: Easy Coconut Shrimp

No-fry Coconut Shrimp
I don't like to cook, but it's usually healthier and less expensive than eating out, so I love finding things that can be made quickly and with only a couple ingredients I'm likely to already have on hand. This super easy coconut shrimp takes just a few minutes to make, and requires only three ingredients. Honestly, if I can't mess this up, no one can.

Not only is it super easy, but it's actually pretty healthy too -- shrimp is a lean protein, coconut oil is crazy healthy, and unlike many similar recipes, this one does not require frying the shrimp, using the broiler instead.

-Frozen cooked shrimp
-Coconut oil
-Unsweetened coconut flakes (This kind is sold at Fairway by the flours)
-Baking pan lined with tin foil

Put the shrimp in the bowl and run water over them to defrost them. They can sit in the water for a while to defrost a bit while other things for the meal are prepared like steaming veggies. This is also a good time to line the baking pan with tin foil and turn on the broiler.

Drain the water and add a tablespoon or so of coconut oil. The shrimp doesn't need to sit in a puddle of oil. Using your hands, roll the shrimp around in the oil until they're all coated, then add unsweetened coconut flakes as desired to the bowl, mixing up again. As each shrimp is placed on the tin foil, make sure it's covered in coconut flakes.

Once all the shrimp is on the tin foil, place the tray under the broiler for a few minutes. This time will change based on the size of the shrimp, but because they're already cooked, the shrimp is ready to come out when the coconut flakes turn golden and the shrimp is warmed through -- it should be under five minutes.

I like the coconut shrimp on its own with vegetables on the side, but it would also be great added to a salad. And since shrimp is delicious cold, this makes for either a fantastic dinner or a convenient lunch to pack up and bring to work or out on a picnic. Enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Make it Better: Broken Umbrella DIY

Broken umbrella to swimsuit bags DIY
I love umbrellas. I have a collection of tall umbrellas in various solid colors and small folding umbrellas in all sorts of patterns and sizes. Some have been given to me, like the one friends brought back from Mexico, the Kelly green one my brother's friend offered on a rainy day, and a whimsical pink and red one that opens to look like a parasol from my wife. I prefer umbrellas with bright colors because they help cheer up a cloudy day, and I really love happy prints.

Whether it's due to a strong wind or a sloppy closing, it makes me so sad to reach the point where a happy colored umbrella is bent beyond help. I find it so hard to part with the pretty patterns that I've actually used broken umbrellas when it wasn't raining very hard! Realizing how ridiculous that is, I recently spent some time working on a few projects I could make out of a broken umbrella canopy. This way, I can keep using the great colors and prints long after the umbrella itself has seen its last useful day.

Since the canopy is already water-resistant, I decided a swimsuit bag would be just the thing to take advantage of the nylon material. I made three different types of bags out of my eight-panel umbrella. Most umbrellas consist of eight panels, so while broken umbrellas come in different diameters, which will affect the size of the final bags, all three of these bags can be made from one umbrella. The advantage to this is that if one makes any combination of these bags, she will have a matching set when she's finished. After finishing this project, I plan to use my set for traveling -- I now have a shoe bag, a swimsuit bag, and a dirty laundry bag, all made out of matching lightweight nylon.

While all three bags could be used for a wet swimsuit, the first bag I made is the one I've designated as my swimsuit bag because its got the tightest closure. I really wanted to stay away from working with zippers, so I used an origami-inspired fold and snap technique instead. The second bag could also be used for a swimsuit, but with a drawstring top, it will not hold water in as well. I've decided this will probably be a shoe bag, as it's the right size for a pair of flats, but I've already used it for a wet swimsuit and it worked fine when placed upright in my purse. The third bag requires the least work, but also has the least secure closure, using the umbrella's original "tail" as its closing mechanism. It could be a bathing suit bag if positioned upright when a wet suit is inside, but I've decided to use it for dirty clothing instead.

Using this method, the umbrella's finished outer edge works to decrease the number of seams necessary, while making the bags edges nice and neat. This project is great for new sewers because small mistakes won't show on busy patterns, but beginners should avoid striped umbrellas because misaligned stripes will be noticeable.

Continue reading for the tutorial...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Something New Jewelry Cleaner Giveaway!

Win this!
Photo credit: Something New
Something New Jewelry Cleaner is offering a free giveaway as well as free shipping on orders to Luxe Austerity readers! This is truly one of my favorite products, so I'm very excited to share about it. While it's called a jewelry cleaner, Something New can be used on all types of stones, all types of metal, and even household items like mirrors and glass.

One of my best friends and I both got married just two weeks apart. We were in each other's wedding parties for weddings that would happen in different states, so in the months leading up to the nuptials we both went to a good deal of bridal shows in both her state and mine. I went to a few with my friend, and a few with my mother, and discovered that depending on the location, the events were very, very different. I attended a few big wedding expos in convention centers, a beautiful and decadent bridal show at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan, and a tiny show featuring local vendors near my home town in New England. They all had very different styles, but I did find some great things at almost every one.

Photo Credit: K and K Photography
via Bridal Guide
One of the best things I discovered at a bridal show was Something New Jewelry Cleaner. At the time, I was mainly cleaning my engagement ring with toothpaste, which worked fine, but I knew I wanted a real cleaner I could use easily. There seemed to be an endless number of options available, but they all seemed expensive and full of chemicals. So, when my friend called me over to a booth at one of these shows because they were cleaning her ring, I knew I was interested in giving it a try.

The man running the booth took my ring, and sprayed it with a bright pink liquid solution. Then he rubbed it with a white, cream product, and rinsed it off with water. As he dried my ring against a paper towel, dark tarnish showed on the towel, and my ring was quite sparkly. It took just seconds, and was even easier than using a polishing cloth. But what made me buy the product on the spot was that it is all-natural, made from banana and coconut oils, and is completely child and pet safe. If it's child and pet safe, I figured, it must be gentle on my jewelry, too.

In the years since, I've used it regularly: It has become one of those products I try to always have on hand. I love that it's safe to use on all kinds of jewelry including costume jewelry (partly because it doesn't require soaking, which can affect the glue, and partly because it's gentle and chemical-free) but can also be used to soak more resilient items like diamond jewelry overnight. It works on all metal from jewelry to tack, and a neat feature is that even if the cleaner gets on the leather, it can be rinsed away without staining. The fact that it doesn't stain leather speaks to how gentle it is, and how easy and useful it is for many different items around the home. I regularly use it to clean a silver tray and a bud vase on my dresser that both tarnish very quickly, and sometimes use it as a quick way to clean the bathroom mirror.

Besides the ease of use and gentleness of Something New Jewelry Cleaner, my favorite part is how long-lasting and reusable it is: When it's been used so much that it turns from its original bright pink color to a cloudy dark pink, it can simply be strained over cheesecloth and used over and over again, making it the most frugal jewelry cleaner I've ever found.

Something New Jewelry Cleaner comes in two parts. The first is the bright pink liquid, which can be sprayed on and toweled off or used to soak items. The second is the white tarnishing cream which can be rubbed on with an old, soft toothbrush to really get the dirt off. Just the way the pink liquid can be strained to last longer, the white cream is long-lasting too -- if it dries out, all that's needed to revive it is a little of the pink solution.

Win the starter kit pictured at the top of the page!

To enter the Free Giveaway:
Step one: "Like" Something New on Facebook
Step two: Leave a comment below

Additional entries: If you also follow steps one and two above again, but this time to follow Something New on Twitter @MyJewelryCleanr and/or Instagram @MyJewelryCleaner, you'll be entered into the drawing again. That's three possible entries!

To buy with Free Shipping:
Use code "Luxe" at checkout at Something New Jewelry Cleaner

If you've never used Something New before, this $30 starter kit (the one in the giveaway) is the one I would suggest because the spray bottle is really useful for cleaning mirrors and quick cleaning of jewelry, the jar is great for soaking items, and the tarnishing cream kicks up the cleaning power even more. The cream is not for use every day, and mine has lasted for years, so my most recent purchases have been the refills of the pink solution.

The winner will be chosen next Thursday, August 14th... But even if you don't win and you use the free shipping instead, I know you'll love Something New as much as I do.

Good luck!