Sunday, January 27, 2013

Savy Second-Hand Shopping: Thrift Haul

In the coming weeks, I will be working on a creative writing piece all about the "art of thrifting" for one of my classes. Recently, I pitched my topic to the class and I must say I was pleasantly surprised at how positive their reactions were! Their questions about the types of things I find and how much I typically pay for them sparked my idea to begin doing monthly "thrift haul" posts on my blog. As I put together the pieces of my "how to" on thrifting, I will post them; until then, here is today's adventure!

I've been hearing a commercial on the local radio stations about a place called Plato's Closet where you can "shop the closets of the DMV's most fashionable women." Obviously, with my thrift obsession, this ad completely enticed me. I did a little research and realized that the store actually will pay you cash for your name brand clothes. They look for things that have been sold within the past two years, in nearly new condition and "trendy." This weekend, I rummaged through my closet and pulled together two large shopping bags of clothes. The nearest Plato's to my house is in Fredericksburg, VA; so off I went this morning! 

They ended up taking 5 pairs of A&F jeans ($7.00 each), a Michael Kors rain jacket ($8.75 (mind you, I literally paid $1.00 for this at a yard sale like a year ago and it never fit me!)), a few sun dresses ($4.00 each), a few summer shirts ($2.00 each) and a belt ($2.00). They only ended up taking about half of what I had because they considered the rest "too formal." I was not aware that they don't take dress clothes so that's what I ended up bringing back home. In total, for about one shopping bag of clothes, I got $59.75 in cash! This place is really great because they are so selective about what they buy. Also, I thought $7.00 per pair of jeans was pretty generous considering they were all relatively well worn and I originally bought them at the outlets for roughly $18-25 each. Personally, I thought the clothes in the store were a little pricey but they seemed to have decent sales. I did find one silk blouse for $3.00 on clearance, so I snagged that but it was the only thing I bought from here. Overall, it was an easy way to recycle my old clothes and make a little cash! I would definitely recommend taking a load every now and then. Note, I would not consider Plato's a thrift store because their prices are much higher; this is definitely a consignment shop!

With a little extra cash in my pocket, I decided to check out the other thrift stores in the area. Can you believe there are almost 10 Goodwill stores in Fredericksburg?! I thought that was wild! We ended up going to only three of them, one of which was a Goodwill OUTLET! 

This place was HUGE! It used to be a high end furniture store that I went about 10 years ago.
The blue side the "store" and the green is the "outlet"

This is not for the faint of heart; only a true lover of thrifting would be daring enough to scavenger through this place. Imagine a huge room with troughs of clothes and shoes. If you wanted to find anything at this store, you were gonna have to do some serious digging. We did our fair share of diggin' but came out pretty much empty handed (my Mom found some fabric and sewing stuff which totaled a whopping $0.43). What was completely baffling about the "outlet" was that you pay for your items by the pound! Textiles were $1.37 per pound; I was slightly disappointed that I didn't find anything here because it was such a ridiculous deal. 

Here is what I found today between the three Goodwill stores: 

  1. 2 pairs of True Religion Jeans (definitely my BEST thrift find yet! These retail from $99.00-$300.00 in department stores... I paid $5.99 per pair!) (value $100-200)
  2. 1 pair of American Eagle straight leg, dark wash jeans ($5.99) (value $30)
  3. 1 pair of Banana Republic urban straight leg, medium stonewashed jeans ($3.00-on sale) (value $70)
  4. 1 pair of Anne Taylor Loft stretch city fit dress pants ($5.99) (value $40)
  5. 1 Brook's Brothers button down dress shirt ($4.49) (value $80)
  6. 1 Kenar silk blouse ($4.49) (value $30)
  7. 1 Anne Taylor Loft sweater ($4.49) (value $20)
  8. 1 Exhilaration sheer tunic ($4.49) (value $15)
Total Paid: approximately $45.00. 
Total Value: over $300

Note: I am estimating the value based on the condition of what I buy in comparison to what it was probably bought for originally. These are just rough guesses but they definitely go to show that thrifting can be a huge money saver!

Here are my recent shoe finds:

  1. Fioni black dress sandals- new ($6.98)
  2. Anne Taylor Loft black, T-Strap wedges ($3.00)
  3. Mossmino gladiator heels ($5.00)
  4. Joey black, slingback platforms ($5.00)
Total: approximately $20.00

So, there you have it! The first of many thrift hauls. Stay tuned for a "best practices" and "how-to" on the art of thrifting! Thanks for reading! 

And just for laughs, here is what some have called my "theme song" :-) 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Egg Roll Extravaganza

This morning I woke up to a message from my Mom inviting me over for homemade egg rolls: best news ever! It has probably been about five years since we've made these so I was extremely excited. Growing up, we would do this once or twice a year; this was always one of my favorite meals that we made when I was a kid. Call me biased but I definitely think that homemade egg rolls are way better than the ones we normally get in Chinese takeout. These are so incredibly fresh and if you fry them they are perfectly crunchy without being overly greasy. Heaven! Since we ended up with extra wrappers, we also made our version of Crab Rangoon and then I finished up the egg roll extravaganza evening by throwing together a Baked Apple Pie Roll (I will post these two recipes separately!).

"Your Way" Egg Rolls

I call these "your way" because this recipe is extremely versatile. You can make these with meat or they can be completely vegetarian, you can add really any veggie for filling and you can either bake or fry them. Talk about options! We did a batch of veggie, some of which we baked and the rest we froze to eat later. These do fantastic in the freezer! We also did another batch using beef in addition to our veggie filling we fried most of these and baked just a few. 

2 packages of egg roll wrappers (20 per pack)
1 pound of ground beef or pork
3 large carrots
1 medium white onion
1 bunch of spring onions
1 head of green cabbage
2 cups of chopped mushrooms (we used dried and then reconstituted them)
1 can of bean sprouts
1 can of water chesnuts
1 small piece of ginger root
2 cloves of garlic
1/8 cup of soy sauce
Salt & Pepper
Small bowl of water (for sealing wrappers)

1.   If you plan to bake your egg rolls, preheat your oven to 375 degrees; if you are going to fry them, either prepare your oil in a frying pan or pull out your good ole deep fryer (that's what we did!).

2.   Start by finely chopping all of your veggies. You can certainly use a food processor to do this but we did it the old fashioned way.

  • Grate the cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic and fresh ginger.
  • Finely chop the spring onions, water chestnuts and mushrooms. 

3.    Using a large mixing combine all your chopped veggies. Open the can of bean sprouts and drain them well; if you are watching your sodium intake you can certainly rinse them before adding them to your veggie mix.

4.   Generously season your veggie mix with soy sauce, pepper and salt if needed. You could also add Chinese five spice powder at this time if you have it on hand (we did not).

Veggie Filling
Veggie & Beef Filling
5.    If you are making veggie egg rolls- it is time to begin the wrapping process!

If you are making meat egg rolls- take your meat of choice and season it with salt and pepper; cook it completely through either via the microwave or by sauteing over the stove-top. 

The Art of the Wrap

If you plan on frying your egg rolls, it is crucial that they are wrapped up tightly to avoid oil splatter. Keep in mind, you must find a delicate balance between too tight and too loose of your wrap. This is always a simple process of trial and error. 

  1. Place approximately 2 heaping tablespoons of filling on the center of your wrapper.

  1. Fold the bottom corner diagonally toward the top and then fold in each side, being sure to tuck in the corners to prevent spillage of your filling. 

  1. Dip your finger in water and trace the top edge of the wrapper; just as if you were sealing an envelope. 

  1. Slowly roll toward the top seal and place egg roll seal side down. 

Here are our first batch of the veggie rolls! Once your rolling is complete, fry or bake away! 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year, New You

"Person-First Langauge" - An easy addition to your list of New Year's Resolutions

A few weeks ago I was sitting in my living room, wrapping presents and listening to the local news. A story came on that caught my attention, "Fairfax Special Needs Student Left at Bus Stop Alone." Now, to most people this headline and subsequent report would have been just another story but for me, it was something more. As I listened to the story, I  couldn't help but hear the repetition of "special needs" and notice how it was placed before every describing characteristic of the subject: "special needs boy," "special needs student," "special needs kindergartener."

Now, you may be reading this and thinking to yourself, "okay, so what?..." 

There is a linguistic philosophy called "person-first language"which shifts focus from defining people by what they "have" and instead, places emphasis on who they "are." I had a very special professor this past semester who introduced me to this philosophy; she opened my eyes to the detriments that just a simple order of words can have on the way in which we think about people who have disabilities. 

In our society, language is power; words hold a deeper significance than most of us realize. When we speak in manner which lists a disability or condition before the actual subject, we are placing an unconscious importance over the actual character of a person and consequently defining them by something that is quite irrelevant to their disposition. This simple order of words can devalue a person's capabilities, altering the way in which their potential is viewed by society. 

"Person-first language" is not a new phenomena yet the vast majority of Americans have never heard of it. Why is that? I've spent a lot time trying to answer this question and I found that the answer lies in the very story I mentioned at the beginning of this post: the media. After seeing this story, I felt compelled to write into this news station and introduce them to this philosophy. Until our media begins to recognize the importance of "person-first language," the stigma that surrounds disabilities will remain the same. 

It is my goal in 2013 to make "person-first language" a standard that I speak and write by; I firmly believe that in doing this, we can begin to de-stigmatize people who have disabilities and other various conditions. 

I wrote into the station that broadcasted this story and voiced my concern with the manner in which they conveyed their frustration with how this specific student was treated; in doing so, I made sure to recognize and commend them for highlighting the issue of student safety. Hopefully, my message will be well-received and we will start to see a change in local media. 

I challenge all of you to add supporting "person-first language" to your list of New Year's Resolutions. When you hear friends, family, news reporters and even strangers, placing emphasis on disabilities and conditions rather than the spirit of an individual, find a polite way to introduce them to the "person-first" philosophy. 

Best Wishes and Happy New Year!