Beautiful and Cheap, In the Best Possible Way

I love wandering through the makeup counters at department stores. The alluring scents, the pretty packages, the illusion of perfection. I confess, it sucks me in. But never all the way.

I have a rule. I never spend more than $10 on beauty products. Ever. If it can’t be done for $10, it probably shouldn’t be done. And yet, I’m still a sucker for perfume and lip gloss and eye cream. I’m a girl. What can I say?

birchbox

My trick to getting my beauty fix on the cheap is BirchBox. For $10, they send me a box full of high end samples every month. You can also earn points on the site by reviewing items, and referring friends. Every 100 points is ten dollars off a purchase. And when you sign up, you take this long survey about what you’re into, so the box is tailored to your style.

March Birchbox

There are usually between four and six products each months. Mostly they’re one or two use samples, but occasionally you get a full size item. Often though, even the sample sizes last me for months. Check out the massive amount of stuff I still have since I got my first box at the end of May.

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I think the idea is that you try the samples and then you’ll want to pay full price to order the stuff from their site. If you’re into that, go for it. But that breaks my $10 rule. I don’t care how good the $50 shampoo makes my hair feel. Plus, I’m pretty fickle. A full size product is usually too much of a commitment for me anyway.

Beauty can be expensive. Not being able to afford highlights and $40 lipstick sometimes gets me down. But then I just think of all the books and chocolate I could buy and remember that my makeup is going to come off when I go to the beach, anyway. Birchbox is my monthly treat. A little present to myself. I think I’m worth $10.

birchbox overfloweth

Ditching Cable and Retro Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

Here’s a poor girl confession. I don’t have cable. This is not some noble gesture. I don’t have cable because I’m cheap. I still waste plenty of time watching TV, I just do it a bit more selectively by using my husband’s PS3 to stream Netflix. We get one DVD at a time, plus the streaming service, and it’s $15 a month. So, I figure that’s at least $40 a month I save to spend on cheese and chocolate. You know, the important stuff.

Netflix shows its sense of humor
Netflix shows its sense of humor

When I lived in Taiwan, I discovered I didn’t miss cable nearly as much as I thought I would. I no longer flipped through the channels and got sucked into watching train wreck reality TV, and though I did miss cooking shows, I just became obsessed with food blogs instead.

I love movies and television, but now I just watch selectively. I choose the shows and movies I think are worth my time, then I watch all of them back to back. Then I cry when I learn that they cancelled Stargate Universe halfway through the story arch. Those guys are just floating in space. It’s a tragedy.

Give it a shot. Ditch cable and subscribe to a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime. There are so many ways that you can hook your TV up to the internet these days. Pretty soon, cable will be a thing of the past anyway. The only thing you’ll miss out on is commercials.

Then use the extra money to make yourself a cake. You deserve to celebrate your cleverness.

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I can’t just leave you with nothing to show for your visit here. So because I watched Argo recently, I’ll show you how to make this fabulously retro yellow cake with fudge frosting. It’s so 70’s, just like the hair and costumes in that film.

Argo

If you haven’t seen Argo yet, make sure you put it in your queue. It was thoroughly entertaining, funny and emotional, and highly suspenseful. Ben Affleck is a great director, and the tension in this film is riveting. He pulled off quite of feat getting me to bite my nails over a story based on a historical event. I knew how it would end, but I was still on the edge of my seat.

Watch Argo, eat this cake, and you’ll be like “cable schmable” before you know it.

Retro Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting

Retro Yellow Cake with Fudge Frosting
Yields 1
A classic yellow cake with thick fudge frosting, just like the old days.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
for the cake
  1. 4 whole eggs
  2. 2 egg yolks
  3. 1-1/4 cup buttermilk
  4. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 3 cups (360 grams) cake flour
  6. 2 cups (400 grams) sugar
  7. 1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/2 tsp salt
  9. 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temp, cut into small pieces
for the frosting
  1. 6 oz unsweetened chocolate (the baking kind, not the kind you eat) melted and cooled
  2. 4-1/2 cups (563 grams) powdered sugar
  3. 3 sticks (340 grams) unsalted butter, room temp
  4. 6 Tbsp half and half (any dairy will do, but skim milk won’t be as rich)
  5. 1Tbsp vanilla extract
for the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour 2 nine inch round cake pans. (This recipe was originally 3 layers, but I only have two pans. Work with what you got.) If you have it, line the bottom of each pan with parchment, just to be safe.
  2. Crack the eggs and yolks into a separate bowl, then add ONLY 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and all the vanilla. Whisk or beat with a fork to blend.
  3. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in your mixing bowl and whisk to combine. (If you’re using a stand mixer, use the stir setting instead.)
  4. Add the butter and remaining 1 cup buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.
  5. Turn your mixer up to medium for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be light and fluffy.
  6. Add the egg mixture slowly. Scrape down your bowl and give it one more mix, just until everything is incorporated.
  7. Divide the batter between your waiting pans.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes or until your cake tester comes out clean and the sides have started to pull away from the edge.
  9. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning them out. Use wire racks if you have them. Allow cake to cool completely.
for the frosting
  1. If you have a food processor, simply throw all the ingredients into it, flip the switch, and wait for it to all come together.
  2. Without a food processor, I would sift the powdered sugar into the bowl. Still throw everything in together and mix until combined. Electricity is a lazy baker’s best friend.
  3. This frosting should be dense and fudgy, not light and airy, so if you’re using a mixer, go with the paddle attachment.
  4. I assembled my cake by placing the first cake layer onto my plate, then slapping on about 1/3 of the frosting. Spread it evenly, then place the other cake layer on the top. Place some frosting on the top and work it over the edges, then frost the top. Get as creative as you like. But try to make it like Kitty Forman would. It will taste better that way.
Adapted from Sweetapolita
Adapted from Sweetapolita
http://awesomeon20.com/
 

Chicken

Chickens…They’re Cheaper Than Dogs

Chicken
What are you looking at?

Hi, I’m Renee’s husband, Geoff! Renee said I could write a few guest posts in her awesomely awesome blog about how to be awesome for $20…so here we go!

A few months ago, we decided that we wanted to buy some chickens (as you do). We had heard all sorts of great things about how awesome your life would be if you had your own little “Garden T-Rexs,” so I thought I’d share a few of those with you now!

1) First of all, what does a pedigree dog cost these days? $500? $1000? Probably more than that in some cases! Chickens cost $1.50 each, and that’s not for some run-of-the-mill street chicken. Our girls are thoroughbreds!

2) Chickens do have a great appetite but thankfully are only very small so that means your food costs are going to be pretty small. We buy a 20 pound bag of chicken food for $11 every 3 weeks or so! You can also feed these guys your table scraps for an extra treat!

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3) Chickens are awesome!

4) Chickens lay eggs! Our girls produce an egg each every day; that’s 14 eggs a week! I’ve been eating scrambled eggs for lunch for most of this week, for free! Our eggs are also free-range, pesticide-free and taste amazing!

5) Chickens keep control of all of the pests in the garden. We have seen a marked drop in the number of cockroaches, moths, lizards, mantises and other generally creepy-crawly things! This is a great way to keep your garden nice and healthy for free.

6) Chickens fertilize your plants! You know those little chicken ‘presents’ that they leave for you all over the garden? Well, after you spray the garden down with the hose, they drop their nutrients into the soil, making your plants big and strong!

7) Chickens make good companion animals. Beating all of these other reasons, my favorite thing about chickens is that if you are feeling a little down or upset, you can go out into the garden and cuddle with one! They are so soft (like a feather pillow).

Ommz
Omm nomm nomm

Well, I hope that I’ve given you enough reasons to go out and buy yourselves a couple of little egg-machines. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my guest post and I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again (until I manage to find a job).

Peace!

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