Epic Girl Date

Side note: This is El Taco’s 100th post! Woohoo!

This past weekend, my girl Helene and I hit up the Salvation Army Coat Sale. We got in around 10:30. Fortunately, there was no line to get in.

It was pretty crowded once we got in since there was no one outside to regulate the amount of people entering. I was a bit overwhelmed at first but soon fell into step with Helene and we combed over each rack. If you’re planning on attending the coat sale (future dates posted here), try to bring a friend if you can.

Sadly, the furs had been pillaged by the time we got there. The only evidence there were any furs at all was a lone ripped coat, hanging dejected amidst the leathers. The bags too. There were slim pickings in that section; mostly ratty old synthetics that belonged in the trash. It was that bad. Shoes were kept together with rubber bands but despite that there were random boots everywhere. I saw a grimy old Marc Jacobs rain boot. Yucky.

Wool coats such as trenches and pea coats were also hard to find. The ones I found were in poor condition. There was an abundance of leather trenches and jackets though, which suited us just fine since that’s what we were looking for.

Within minutes, Helene picked out an Elizabeth and James navy leather cropped swing jacket. Amazing! She also found a black leather Gap hoodie for me. It was perfect. I was close to buying a brown leather vest too but it didn’t fit quite right and it wouldn’t have been worth it to alter it.

Each jacket set us back a mere $30. Hooray!

I’ve been looking for a great leather jacket for a long, long time. I’ve tried on countless styles made by countless designers and would have been much more than $30.

The trip out to the Salvation Army in Midtown West was definitely worth it for what we got. However, it doesn’t seem like they restock throughout the day like Housing Works, so if you get there late (I would estimate anytime after 11 would fall into this category) there might not be much left.

My Salvation Army Coat Sale Experience in a Nut Shell

  • Great experience. If you’re curious, go!
  • Don’t go expecting to definitely find a winter coat though. Again, the best selections were the leathers. I hardly saw any parkas and the wool coats I saw were in bad condition.
  • In general, the stuff at Salvation Army seems dirtier than what I got at Housing Works. Be sure to research costs of dry cleaning coats – that is a must. If you find the cost to be high, it might not be worth it to buy used.
  • Don’t expect to hit the jackpot in the shoe or bag departments. They had a really lame selection.

After spending about 2 hours at the coat sale, we went upstairs to the regular Salvation Army thrift store. There were some cute pieces but they were pretty overpriced – $13 for a pleather clutch and $12 for a basic sweater. Our rule is that if you can buy it new for that price, why bother buying it used? We stopped by another thrift store in the area, but it was $$$ central over there so we booked it quick.

Then it was ramen time! Woohoo, ramen. 😀

A quick search using my beloved Yelp app directed us to Sapporo in the Theater district. I didn’t have high hopes for food in that area but the place had a decent 3.5 star rating and only one $ sign. We took a chance and it paid off in the form of hot broth, crisp veggies, and ramen noodles (plus pork for me).

I had the Sapporo special while Helene went for the veggie ramen. Both were quite tasty. To be honest, I liked it more than Ippudo. Did I just say something profane? Sorry. The service was fast and friendly. The final tab for two bowls of ramen was $23, tipped included. Not bad!

After that, we met up with a friend and headed to the Jewelry District. I specifically wanted a chunky silver ring with a black stone. Victory! I bought two for $8 🙂

I wore one today.

I spied these funky necklace /halter vests on display at one store. Crazy, huh? I mean, I would have bought one but I already have two… hehe. 😀

After 40 minutes of jewelry shopping we needed another break, so we walked over to nearby Paris Baguette in K-Town upon Helene’s recommendation. Apparently, this is a popular bakery chain in Korea. They have a plethora of baked goods – more decadent and variety than a Chinese bakery – and drinks. I had the strawberry smoothie. It was refreshing but too bad it took 10 minutes to make… even though I saw the girl cut open a bag of frozen smoothie mix and toss it into a blender. That’s all she had to do – 10 minutes? No entiendo. Helene ordered a hot chocolate and saw home girl open a packet of Swiss Miss! For $3.50? That’s just wrong. At least in Sunset Park, they’ll only charge you $1.

Then, we took the train to SoHo. Are you feeling the “epic” portion of this girl date by now? This was around 5:00 already. Word of advice – never, ever go shopping in SoHo on a Saturday night. It’s like a retail mosh pit. Fitting room lines go on until infinity. Lines to pay wrap around the store. We only went to two stores in the two and a half hours we shopped there. On the bright side, Helene picked out an awesome skirt for me to rock at a party this week ($28) and I finally got a leopard print scarf. For $12. 😀

But we’re not done yet. This wouldn’t be an epic girl date unless we went back to Brooklyn and had a double date. So, we went from 10:30 am to around 11:30 pm. That’s stamina, people.

I love girl dates.

The Hunger Games

Kim and I just started reading The Hunger Games. I’m enthralled; In fact, I spent three hours reading in bed today, using my Kindle holder 😀

I love reading anything in the science fiction or fantasy genre. Ever since I read Brave New World in high school, I’ve been hooked. Imagining whole new worlds and societies with completely different social customs, ethics, morals, and values has always been so fascinating to me. I always imagine myself as a bystander, observing events as they unfold. I love pretending I’m character in each of my favorite books. Some things you just never grow out of.

The Hunger Games is fraught with action and theme of overcoming injustice and tyrannical oppression and authenticity amidst superficiality. Deep. Suzanne Collins constantly writes about food (well, the title says it all) – its abundance to one small part of the country while in other parts or districts, people are dying of starvation. Imagine a world where people live with so much while other people live with little or nothing. Sounds a lot like the world we live in right now.

Anyway, naturally, the movie is coming out in March. I’m having serious issues with their casting choices; most notably, Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. First of all, Katniss is a courageous, self-effacing individual who is pragmatic, athletic, and thoughtful. I just don’t see Lawrence being deep enough to fill this role. She looks so… Hollywood. In an Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft sort of way. No bueno. I thought she was awful as young Mystique on X-Men: First Class. I sincerely thought she brought the movie down every time she was in a scene. Hopefully the movie survives this casting.

All poster images from here.

I think Elizabeth Banks will be great as Effie though. And Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. That’s it. I’ve never heard of the girl they cast to play Rue.

They could have done better with the male casting as well. Does anyone else think Peeta and Cato look like the same guy? I find these actors to be generic-looking.

Katniss, Peeta, and Gale look like a low rent Bella, Edward, and Jake. Sorry, but someone had to say it. Just look at their Vanity Fair photo shoot. You’re right Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games is not Twilight.

Personally, I thought Emily Browning of A Series of Unfortunate Events and most recently/unfortunately, Sucker Punch, would be perfect. Whatever – she’ll always be Katniss to me. 😛

I’m still pretty excited to see the movie though. 😀

TGIF

People unwind after work in different ways – happy hour, napping, a nice cup of tea. For me, it’s a cupcake. I’ve been craving cupcakes ever since our visit to Baked. So, after work today, ST and I made a trip to Butter Lane in Park Slope since I’ve heard good things about it.

The space is bright and yummy-smelling. Butter Lane has three varieties of cake flavors – banana, vanilla, and chocolate. The frosting flavors change. The cost per cupcake is $3 but we were only charged $16 for our order of 6. We got American chocolate, salted caramel, strawberry, caramel, apple spice, and honey.

I ate two on the ride home.

The apple spice is pretty unremarkable. So unremarkable, in fact, that I couldn’t figure out what flavor it was and didn’t remember until I started writing this post. The cake was moist and the frosting was creamy and light though. I also ate the banana cupcake with strawberry frosting. Again, this didn’t do too much for me. It was good but unremarkable in the flavor department.

Salted caramel is my favorite cupcake flavor so I was looking forward to that one. It was decent.

Butter Lane definitely took care of my cupcake crave. Their cupcakes didn’t exhilarate my taste buds, but they were yummy nonetheless.

You have to start the weekend with a cupcake. You just have to.

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How to Tie a Scarf

…is what I Googled today, because I am challenged in the scarf-tying department.


Happy Birthday, Mom

Here’s to many more.

Salvation Army Coat Sale

I’m getting ready for my second thriftastic adventure – the Salvation Army coat sale.

You guys, this is going to be epic. It’s supposed to be so crazy, it’s kah-ray-zay. We’re talking Running of the Brides mad rushing to snatch up furs and leathers for sale from $8 to $50. They also have bags for $2! I am somewhat of a bag snob and I’m excited to see what the world of thrift has to offer me in this area of fashion. So far, all I’ve seen are moldy synthetics and counterfeit Coach bags.

This Saturday, Helene and I will be lining up outside of the Salvation Army in Hell’s Kitchen on West 46th Street. The doors open at 9 am, but lines start as early as 8 am. Here’s the game plan –

  • No liquids. Breakfast but no liquids so we don’t have to pee while waiting.
  • Suit up. I plan to wear my hardcore shopping uniform – leggings, sweater tunic, cross body bag, and warm coat. Side note: My coat was my little sister’s hand-me-down that I’ve been wearing for three years. That’s just wrong.
  • Collaborate. Go over sizes and most desired items so we can help each other score deals.
  • Make friends. Good shopping karma never hurts.

Thrifting has really changed my view about shopping. I’d previously shared my past history as a shopaholic. I’ve been shopping my closet, altering clothing to make it look better and fit better, and shopping sales. I thought I’ve been making progress in the shopping department. The Buy the Bag sale has really opened my eyes to my budget and fashion options.

Recently I purchased a few items from Macy’s – rain boots, a new scarf, and fleece boot liners (this was due to the snow on Saturday – I was so unprepared!). I only bought stuff that I’m not comfortable buying secondhand. I didn’t really look at cardigans, coats, or pants because I want to see what I can thrift. Seriously, it’s tough for me to buy retail now when I bought 19 items for $25. Side note: I’ve worn most of the items that I purchased, received compliments on them, and wowed people by telling them the price.

The thing I love most about thrifting is that I don’t feel guilty about shopping!

It’s gotten to the point where I turn my nose up at regular thrift store prices, like when I went to Beacon’s Closet. This coming from a person who bought a stupid tank top from Express for $45 and never wore it. I shudder to think about all the money I wasted on overpriced and ill-fitting clothing. Oh, well. As Daenarys Targaryen would say, “If I look back, I am lost.”

Anyway, the dates for the Salvation Coat Sale are November 5, December 3, and January 7.

Also, good news! Due to popular demand, Housing Works is having two more Buy the Bag sales – hooray! November 19 and 26. Doesn’t look like I can make either date though 😕

Happy Halloween!

Growing up, my sisters and I were forbidden to participate in any type of Halloween activity. Our parents thought it was devil worship. So we were the only kids in the Halloween parade wearing normal clothes while everyone rocked out in costumes. One year, I rebelled and made Betty Rubble and Pebbles costumes for my sisters. I used large sheets of felt and hot glue to assemble. Good times. 😀 Candy was not forbidden though, so there was that.

Surprisingly, I never went nuts during Halloween even after my parents stopped caring about it. I never had a provocative animal costume or partied rain or snow like some friends did this past weekend. In fact, two years ago, ST and I bought Halloween costumes and still haven’t used them 😕 Our door bell is also broken so we don’t greet any trick-or-treaters. Needless to say, ST and I are pretty lame around this time of year.

Halloween is for the kids – what’s better than dressing up in an awesome costume and gorging on candy? Nothing, that’s what. Seeing my favorite monster and cupcake enjoy themselves made my day. 😀

Yes, Kaitlyn is a cupcake underneath her big brother’s hand-me-down parka. Her hat is a cherry.


I was so relieved that Kaitlyn wore her costume. You see, when she first tried it on, she hated it. As in, I gently forced her into it, put the cherry hat on her head, and she ran away crying.

I love this wild child.

I’m looking forward to buying tons of candy on sale tomorrow 😀

Winter is Here

Yesterday, the weather guy said to expect “snow flurries.”

There is nothing flurry-like about this!

I was utterly unprepared. They say you shouldn’t wear leather in snow. Oh, well.

I’m conflicted about snow. On the one hand, it’s great cuddle weather 🙂 I get to do all the things I love – lazing, watching TV, and online window shopping without guilt. On the other hand, it’s freezing and going anywhere is a hassle. So I guess my positive and negative feelings toward this weather cancel out and I’m neutral to snow.

Winter is back too soon. Boo.

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A Spooky Potluck

Every Friday night, I have fellowship meetings (also called large group) at my church. Each week, it’s a different group’s turn to prepare dinner.

For Halloween, we decided to have a spooky-themed potluck dinner. I’ve always wanted to try making Not Martha’s meat hand. So Mel and I decided to bring that 🙂 Who doesn’t love meatloaf shaped into a creepy hand?

I love meatloaf and I’m always on the prowl for a better recipe. This time I tried the Pioneer Woman’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of ground beef per meat hand – I used two pounds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 slices of Italian bread
  • A bunch of baby carrots
  • Half a large white onion
  • Worcestershire sauce (I add a lot)
  • Seasonings – I used garlic powder, basil, paprika, spicy brown mustard, fresh ground pepper, and sea salt

The one thing that sets this recipe apart from the rest is that in lieu of bread crumbs, you soak slices of bread in milk for about 15 minutes. It seemed weird to me too but if it’s good enough for the Pioneer Woman, it’s good enough for me.

I put both the onion and carrots in the food processor. I’ve never done this before but I think it really made a difference. One thing I did was put the veggies in a paper towel and press out the water. There was a lot of liquid in there.

Then, seasonings and veggies were unceremoniously dumped into a bowl.

A small part of the onion was reserved for the hand’s wrist bone and finger nails. Yummy. I used kitchen shears to cut the perfect manicure 😉

Then add the meat, soggy bread, Worcestershire sauce, and eggs into the bowl. Squish, squish, squish. I actually don’t enjoy this part but the homogeneous end-product is very satisfying.

Then it was time to mold the hand! Not Martha used a handy mold but since I didn’t think of this in advance, I had no time to order one. So I molded it myself taking care to keep the hand uniformly thick throughout so the meat doesn’t burn in some areas. Excuse the blurriness – these were action shots!

Since we had another pound of beef left, I decided to make a meat foot too 😀 I used a coil of onion to make the ankle bone. Mel’s foot was my inspiration – the resemblance is uncanny. Trust me.

Then it was time to slather everything in a mixture of ketchup and Cohen’s special BBQ sauce.


I decided to make one meat loaf cheesy because some people prefer that. So, I added Parmesan cheese to the foot, making it hairy. Yummy.

Then, we popped these body parts into a pre-heated oven at 350 F for 65 minutes. While they were baking, Mel made mashed potatoes. Delicioso!

We let the papas cool for 10 minutes or so before filling a small ziplock bag and using that to pipe between the fingers. Next time I’ll cut a smaller hole for neater piping.

The onion wrist bone popped out while baking, so I suggest pressing it in super deep.

For the foot, we ran out of time so I simply spread potatoes on the bottom of the dish and placed the foot on there. I forgot to take a picture with it on the mash but here it is, fresh out of the oven. I wish the cheese got more burnt and melty but oh, well.

Kim brought these cute mini pumpkin pies and creepy brownies with hands crawling up from the brownie grave. Adorbs! The hands are sans brownie because well… everyone loves brownies.

The new recipe is a winner. I think the milk and bread thing plus the extra egg (I usually only use two) really did the trick. It was moist and flavorful.

Our friends are in town and we got to hang out with their wonderful baby girl. FB, meet Kayla. She might be your BFF or girlfriend one day, depending on your gender. What a great little personality. Check out those cheeks! LOVE.

A good end to a rough week.

Long Day

It’s stress time. For some reason, anything that comes up will come up during this time of the year. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

After work today, I needed retail therapy. I grabbed the three pairs of pants that I couldn’t wear from the Housing Works Buy the Bag sale (two pairs of trousers and mom jeans) and headed over to Beacon’s Closet in Park Slope. The reviews on Yelp are mixed but I figured what the heck.

They wouldn’t take my clothes – I don’t think they were fashionable enough for them. I sort of agree, I guess. They gave me the option of donating the clothes to charity through them so I did it. There’s no sense in keeping clothes that I won’t ever wear. Clutter makes me sad 😦

I browsed the store for 15 minutes. It’s large and clean. They have some pretty cute accessories organized into different parts of the store. There were two rings that were interesting but they were really overpriced – $10-15 for pieces of poor quality. I’ve seen better stuff at Forever 21. That seems to be the theme at Beacon’s Closet though – overpriced items. I saw a Forever 21 skirt priced at $10. Say what…? 😯 That’s probably higher than the original, new-with-tags price. Big, flashing neon “Rip-Off!” sign.

In terms of clothing, I didn’t see anything interesting though the store was moderately full of customers snapping up stuff. Most of the stuff was the same as what I’d seen at the Buy the Bag sale. There was no way I could pay $10-24 per item when I got 19 for $25.

That’s right… I went from shopaholic to frugalista. Just kidding – I shouldn’t give myself so much credit. 😉

Anyway, their shoe selection was pretty decent. They have a wide range of flats, peep toes, platforms, and boots. There were several cute pairs. I picked up a pair of Cole Haan black patent leather mini wedges but decided to put them down in the end. They were $17 and in very good condition but I wasn’t crazy for them.

They looked like this, except a more dated – rounded toe and shorter wedge. I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse for not buying them for a fraction of the retail price but I’m not sure thifted shoes are something I’m ready for.

I’ve been looking for mini wedges for a while now… 😕 Some people recommend spraying diluted bleach into a thrifted shoe and resoling it. I need to do more research.

I definitely won’t go out of my way to shop at Beacon’s Closet. If I’m ever in the neighborhood, I’ll pop in but it’s really not worth a special trip.

Anyway, after I walked out empty-handed and I went across the street to Key Food. I got some chicken and came home to cook dinner for my luvah (ST, if you were confused). Baby sister Mel joined us just as dinner was ready (her timing is always impeccable).

Chicken Parmesan

You’ll need:

  • Chicken cutlets
  • Egg wash – one egg + water, whisked
  • Italian bread crumbs – I add sea salt to it because ST is a salt fiend
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a frying pan on low. Slice each cutlet in half. Then, pound each cutlet as flat as it can get. Dip the chicken into the egg wash and them dredge in bread crumbs. Fry the cutlets 5 minutes on each side on low heat. After browning each side, cover the pan for 3-4 minutes to keep the chicken juicy. This is ST’s trick – works every time.

Serve over pasta or in a sandwich.

Then we turned on Gremlins – one of my favorite movies. I love Gizmo and Phoebe Cates is fabulous. I’ve always thought she was and is so gorgeous.

Frantically trying to keep up with Gremlin drink orders. 😀

Image source

Our favorite line is “Gizmo… Kaka!”

It reminds me of Kaitlyn saying “Gah gah!”

I guess my day wasn’t so bad after all.

The end. 🙂

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