Life on Two Wheels

What’s your dream car? Mine’s a Vespa. That’s right. A cute sleek Italian scooter. I picture myself wearing an A-line dress, Jackie O sunglasses, and a long scarf, cruising around the island. And of course, a helmet, preferably leopard print with goggles.

I wish this was my helmet.
I wish this was my helmet.

This does not fit into my budget. But driving a scooter definitely helps me live on $20 a day. Ask me how much I spend on gas each week. Go on, ask me.

$4

That’s it. Four bucks at the pump. And the only reason I spend that much is because I work so far away right now.

His, mine, and ours
His, mine, and ours

Every time I put gas in my car I want to cry. It’s always over $50. Luckily, I don’t drive it that often. Dealing with traffic and parking is so tedious, I want to tear my hair out. Then there’s the tags and the inspection fees. New tires. Dead batteries. Car ownership is a drag.

I paid about $900 for my current scooter, brand new. I get around 75 miles to the gallon. I’ve gotten 100 before. It’s worth it for the reduction in carbon emissions alone. My scooter saves me a ton of money.

Proper scooter attire required
Proper scooter attire required

But apart from being economical, it’s also super fun. I first started riding a scooter when I lived in Taiwan, and we’d ride those things everywhere. We even went camping at the top of a mountain. If you can find the right back roads, you can go just about anywhere. And you can see everything. There are no pesky roofs or windows to block your view of the scenery.

I realize a scooter might not be practical for everybody. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for travelling with small children, though I have seen dogs that are scooter trained. And I know for a fact you can pull a goat trailer with one. But if you live in a place that’s above 65 degrees even six months out of the year, and you don’t have to do a lot of freeway driving, it’s absolutely the best way to get around town.

Always wear a helmet!
Always wear a helmet!

Save money. Reduce carbon emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Never have to search for parking. Look totally cool driving around saying “Ciao!” Ditch your car. Get a scooter. All the cool kids are doing it.

Sausage Rolls

sausage rolls

St. George’s Day is coming up, so today I’m celebrating all things awesomely English. My absolute favorite Anglo export is the dude sitting on my futon. We’ve been married for two years, and I’m still charmed by his accent every day. My second favorite English fellow has to be Mr. Harry James Potter.

On our visit to England we had some time to kill in London, so I pretty much insisted on seeing King’s Cross station and getting a cheesy photo at platform 9-3/4. If you visit the station, there aren’t any signs to help you find it, and it’s sort of impossible to see. The guy at the info counter will get annoyed when you ask where it is. You’d think they’d be over it by now.

platform 9 3/4

After completing this necessary duty, I fell in love with another English wonderment known as the sausage roll. Why oh why are these not sold on every street corner in America? It’s completely perplexing. It’s one of the most ingeniously delicious things I’ve ever eaten. And to have it at King’s Cross, where Jo Rowling’s parents met, was extra special. It was all thoroughly English.

sausage rolls on tray

It’s just yummy sausage wrapped in puff pastry and baked to a golden brown. So simple, yet so mind-blowingly delicious. I wish I could eat one every day. In England, they’re sold on nearly every street corner, but now that we’re back in America, we have to make them ourselves. Luckily, it’s quite simple. Moreover, you can eat them hot or cold, so they’re great for picnics or snacks, if you can get them to last that long.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of burning your mouth on a piping hot sausage roll, you simply must make some right this minute. Put down your sword, stop slaying dragons, get out of your castle, and get in the kitchen and make these. Then try and share with your friends. It’s the English way.

sausage rolls inside

Sausage Rolls
Yields 12
A homemade version of the perfect British street food
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 sheets frozen puff pastry
  2. 1 pound of your favorite sausage meat, uncooked (I like Jimmy Dean hot)
  3. 1 egg
Instructions
  1. Let your puff pastry thaw on the counter. 30 minutes should be plenty.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the sheets. With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut each one down the middle, then cut into thirds in the other direction to make six squares per sheet.
  4. Divide your sausage meat evenly between each square. Smoosh it into a line down the center of each square. It’s okay to go right to the edge.
  5. Crack your egg into a bowl and beat it with a fork until well combined. You can add a bit of water to thin it out, if you like.
  6. For each square, carefully fold the sides of the puff pastry over the sausage so they overlap. Press the dough together to seal it, then using the fork dipped in your egg mixture, press the tines into the seam. The egg will help act as a glue.
  7. Place the roll seam-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on the size, you may need to use two baking sheets or work in two batches.
  8. With a sharp knife cut 2-3 slits into the top of each roll.
  9. Brush each roll with a thin layer of your egg wash. This makes them all shiny and lovely.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes or golden brown. Allow them to cool for as long as you can stand it. At least 10 minutes.
  11. Try not to burn your fingers when you finally sink your teeth into one of these bad boys. It’s not easy. Patience is overrated.
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

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Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves: DIY Chicken Feeder

Aloha again, it’s Geoff here for a second guest blog post! Yes, it’s about chickens again, what self-respecting blog-post wouldn’t be about chickens?

So this blog is about being awesome for little or no money, right? Well I am always on the lookout for something that will either make my life easier or cheaper and I like to experiment. Let me throw some light onto a recent chicken-project of mine, the chicken auto-feeder.

A treadle feeder
A treadle feeder

I’d been contemplating getting or making a chicken feeder that allowed me to stop the wild birds eating the girls’ food, whilst also being easy to use for the little feathered egg-machines. I came across this link one day for a treadle feeder. A treadle feeder is just like the one on the left, and consists of a pedal that the chickens stand on which opens a lid, giving the chickens their secured food. This works on the premise that the chickens are heavier (and smarter) than the wild birds, stopping the wild birds from eating all the chicken food.

However, reading through the plans and description of this feeder made me a little queasy…I would need to buy all kinds of equipment and materials to make one! If I wanted to buy one, I found them to be priced around $80 online but with no local distributors! This called for a ‘Plan B’.

Raw ingredients
Raw ingredients

Watching a few chicken videos and tutorials online, I had a brainwave and rushed out to buy a cheap drill-bit for around $4. Stick with this please…

Take the lid from a large plastic milk container and make a circular hole in it with whatever tools you have at hand. I recommend a soldering iron (one that you don’t particularly use that often) to melt the hole, this way you don’t leave any sharp edges. Make the hole pretty small to begin with, just a little larger than the handle of the drill bit. Then, feed the drill bit handle through the hole, leaving the top of the drill bit on the ‘inside’ of the lid. Fill your milk container up with chicken food and carefully screw the lid back on. Hang your milk container upside down and voila, you have an auto chicken feeder!

Chicken feeder

Whenever the chickens tap on the handle, food should fall out of the hole! If it doesn’t look like the food will come out (should be a few pieces at a time), simply make the hole a little larger!

Click HERE to watch a video of the feeder in action.

Total cost…$4. Awesomeness rating…10/10. This is Geoff, signing off…until next time folks!

A Reason to Celebrate and Swiss and Bacon Dip

I have a confession to make. I haven’t been playing my own game the last couple of months. With my husband being out of work, it’s been a little like Greece around here lately, and not because of an over abundance of pita and hummus. We’ve had to put in place some serious austerity measures. It’s been dour. Decidedly unawesome. I’ve been trying to spend as little money as possible, so $20 a day was definitely out of the question.

Sad times
Sad times

But after more than ten weeks of only a trickle of income from web design projects, my husband was finally offered a job today. I know he is thrilled to have somewhere to go and something to do again. And I’m breathing easier myself knowing that we don’t have to live off of my very meager income.

Awesome times!
Awesome times!

I get to spoil myself again. No, this doesn’t involve Coach bags or trips to the spa. This is real life, kids. Tomorrow I’m going to the ATM and taking out my $140 for the week. Then I’m going to the grocery store and buying myself some chicken breasts so I can actually make some of the recipes on my list. This is what the lower tax brackets get excited about. Chicken. It’s true. And a six pack of ciders. That will probably be in my basket, too.

Swiss and Bacon Dip
Swiss and Bacon Dip served at our wedding. Photo by Lindsey Vandolah

When you get news this good, you have to celebrate. I almost never have a party for which I don’t make Swiss and Bacon Dip. It’s got to be one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Warm gooey cheese with bacon on sour dough bread. Just look at that sentence.

Every time I make this, it completely disappears. There isn’t a crumb left behind. It’s mind-blowing. So think of an excuse for a party and make this. Just got a haircut? Party. Stubbed your toe? Party. I don’t care, just celebrate. And raise a glass to my husband ’cause he’s totally awesome.

Swiss and Bacon Dip in a Sourdough Bread Bowl

Swiss and Bacon Dip
Serves 6
The most delicious hot dip there is. Gooey Swiss cheese and crisp bacon will blow you away.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 8 slices bacon, chopped (I use scissors)
  2. 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  3. 1/2 cup mayo
  4. 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  5. 10 grinds of pepper
  6. 1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  7. 3 scallions, chopped (use the scissors again)
  8. 1 round loaf of sour dough bread
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Cook your bacon to desired crispiness, which for me is nearly burnt. Drain the bacon on a paper towel.
  3. Add cream cheese, mayo, mustard, and pepper to a mixing bowl and mix until combined and smooth.
  4. Add cheese and scallions and mix to combine. Then throw in the bacon and mix that in, too.
  5. Scoop out the mix into a shallow baking dish. Bake it uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until gooey.
  6. In the meantime, cut the top out of your bread loaf and pull out the guts of your bread to make a bread bowl. Tear the bread and arrange it on your platter around the loaf.
  7. When the dip is hot, carefully scrape it in to the bread bowl. Steal a piece of bread to clean off the baking dish for taste testing purposes. Don’t skip this step.
  8. You could serve this with carrots or other veggies if you like. I’m not gonna eat that. Really, the bread is all you need.
Adapted from Rachael Ray
Adapted from Rachael Ray
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/
 

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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.

100_2716

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

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