Cheering the Stars

 

“Free champers? I’ll get it!” Don’t trip on your run to the open bar, now.

This economy doesn’t leave a lot of room in many people’s budgets for going out and having fun, or drinks.  You can only take so many walks. You can window shop only so many times, forlornly gazing at all the pretty, wonderful, amazing clothes and toys, clutching your $4 cappuccino splurge and remembering when. I just depressed myself.

There is hope for all of us budget-challenged people. Inexpensive, and free things to do are out there, really. And they’re fun. And cool. I can’t direct you to the free buffet with the free premium open bar, but here are some ideas, and a couple of specific events.

“Frankly, my dear Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

Almost every city has movies and music under the stars during warm weather. If you’re looking for something free to do with friends, and where you may possibly meet new people, these are great. Pack a picnic, bring a good, stout blanket to avoid the grass itchies, a pillow to lean on, and spray on some insect repellent. If you have never watched a movie outside while the sky darkens and the stars come out, you are missing a fun, inexpensive evening that you will want to do again. Fun with friends? Check! Fun with strangers? Check! Possibly romantic? Oh, yeah. Here are a few links to some outdoor events around the country. They’re easy to find online, so feel free to search around for your particular town.

Atlanta:

Dallas:

Jersey City/Hoboken

Minneapolis:

New York

San Francisco

This is just a sample. You need to search for Under the Stars events in your city or town; most of them are free. Just, remember to turn your phone off.

Fresca Sunrise

“Can I buy you a drink?” “Why, of course, but do we have to talk?”

Free drinks always have a price. Always. And open bars are not an everyday occurrence. When you do find a free open bar, you’re so starved for a cold frosty anything, it’s hard to remember your manners. To answer the immediate question, no, open bars do not mean you can double-fist drinks all night long. You really can only get away with that if you’re in college and don’t know any better. Or if you’re Charlie Sheen, who can, apparently, get away with anything. Just because we’re broke doesn’t mean we need to give up manners or self-esteem.

Also, if you are reading this, chances are high you don’t have the kind of money to cover your table in Johnny Walker Blue and light it on fire just to watch the cool, blue flames. By the way, cheap Everclear works just as well.

The point is that if you’re going out, you might want to have a drink at home with friends while you get ready to go. Perhaps you’d like to put some in a picnic, not that I’m telling you that you ought to travel around with alcohol, but as someone who owns a travel bar, I’m just saying there might be an occasion where it is appropriate, right? Of all the jobs I’ve had in my life, bartender was a title I carried for over 15 years. That is a lot of drink mixing. Sure, anyone can make rum and coke or a vodka tonic, but outside of a pre-mixed margarita, what can YOU do with tequila, for instance? It’s often on sale, and margarita mix ain’t cheap. This is tasty, and even girls will like it.

Fresca Sunrise

This is a refreshing, sparkling, punch-like cocktail. My old roommate likes diet Ginger Ale, but the grapefruit adds a particularly fragrant and flavorful depth to this. I was never satisfied with the original version, so I kept trying to find the flavor I was looking for until my mouth instantly watered while looking at a Fresca bottle one evening. I thought, oh, yeah. Take that, Obi Wan. When I’m trying to find the right flavor, the Force is on my side. If you don’t overload the tequila, even tequila-doubters will wonder what this yummy drink is. Obviously, the cheaper the tequila, the more pungent the flavor, but you get what you pay for. Needless to say, a bottle of Tequila, Fresca and juice will make a big old container of punch to drink at home. (Or a picnic)

  1. 1 part tequila (preferably silver, but you can go as dark as reposado)
  2. 3 parts Fresca Grapefruit (sugar free) soda
  3. 1 part Cranberry or Cherry Juice
  4. Pour over ice, stir gently, squeeze a lime in, and aaaah.

Mexican Bellinis

You know the clearance fruit and vegetable rack in the back of the produce section? Yeah, the stuff that’s on the way out? That. And isn’t it peach season, too? Hmm, let me see, overripe peaches, very cheap, and that half bottle of tequila left over from the other night. I wonder…

Make 1 cup peach puree in your blender by washing and pitting all of those soft, cheap, juicy peaches and throwing them in. Sweeten with a couple spoonsful of sugar while still in the blender if it’s too tart. It’s okay if they have a bruise or two, just make sure they haven’t gone off. You can also add a bit of water if the puree is too thick. It should be thick, but pourable, like thick pancake batter.

Over ice:

  1. ½ part tequila
  2. ½ part triple sec (or St. Germain, if you have it. This delicate elderflower liqueur adds a wonderfully fragrant flavor)
  3. 2 parts peach puree
  4. Fill with ginger ale, or soda, for a less sweet version, and gently stir. You can add muddled raspberries to it if you are trying to impress someone, and splurge the $4 or so.  You can also make this in a pitcher (or closed container, ahem) instead of individually.

You don’t have to sit alone, wishing someone would take you out. Ask them out, on you. You can find fun things to do that won’t cost money outside of bringing your own snack, and transportation costs. Now that the weather is warm, you don’t have to stay inside every single night to save money. Have a drink at home, make yourself a sandwich or a bag of snacks, and listen to Brett tell Scarlett to kiss his grits while the stars come out in the night sky above you.

You might even see me there with a suspiciously frosty beverage.

Cheap Love,

Gloria

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Coffee and Ink

Staying in.

For some people, it rings the toll of doom, bringing to mind sitting alone in a quiet room with the cat, a non-alcoholic cup of coffee, and a book. For others, it brings to mind the ahhh of curling up on the couch under a blanket, purring kitty keeping toes warm, sipping a beautiful, creamy cup of cappuccino, and escaping into another world as twilight softly shifts into evening outside of the window. Couple guesses into which group I fall.

Reading, It’s What’s for Cheap

Admittedly, I am a reading fiend. I mean serious fiend. If I could afford it, I would constantly buy new books and have a library the size of Serenity’s cargo hold. (yay, geek references!) I have read voraciously since I was a child. I would walk into the dining room with my book, read all through dinner, and leave with my nose still stuffed in between the pages. My mother took me to the public library at least once a week.  I would check out the maximum number of books allowed, 6, I believe, and have them read and come back for more a week later, less if I walked there after school and waited for mother to pick me up. While studying at UNT, I skipped classes, exams, and labs just to sit in the library with a pile of books I’d discovered while prowling the stacks. Today, I re-read almost everything put in front of me, sometimes because I can’t afford to keep buying more books (and when I move…Oy, kill me), but mainly because there’s a deep joy in re-visiting a story I love, knowing where it’s going, but appreciating it like an old friend. You know what she’s going to say, but you love to hear her say it.

My bank account doesn’t have the same love affair with books that I do. Still, an addiction is an addiction, and I have never found a way to break this habit.

Growing up in Dallas, I had the benefit of access to one of the best used book and music stores, well, ever. It’s called Half Price Books. I would wander the Farmer’s Branch, TX store with the air of someone who found the ancient secret treasure of Queen Cleopatra, and it happened to include her private library.  It’s since expanded to quite a few states, and the internet.  Every time I go home to see my mother and brother in Texas, I go to the local HPB, buy about 15 books for about $25 and grumble when I can’t fit my clothes back into my bag for the trip to New Jersey.  I have a few other favorites: Recycled Books and Records in Denton, TX or Half.com but Half Price Books is my first paper and ink love, and besides, the prices are ridiculous.

Half Price has quite a large selection of out of print and rare editions, but as you’re reading the blog by the most continuously broke person ever, focus on the cheap, people. I get plenty of brand-new condition paperbacks for $1 by authors such as Janet Evanovich, David Eddings, Neil Gaiman, and Charlaine Harris. On the last trip I scored this sucker for the very special price of 3 dollars.

My clandestine trysts with cheap, bound pages aside, here’s a list of some cheap book sources, some of which might have locations near you, so check it out!

Half Price Books

This is my favorite, and has the best prices I’ve ever seen.

Recycled Books and Records, Denton, TX.

This got me through my college years, and I still enjoy music searching when I’m there. The music selection is impressive.

Strand Books, New York, NY.

Frankly, I think the prices are a bit high for a used book store, but it is the largest used book store you’ll ever walk into. Multiple floors and huge stacks mean hours of book browsing. I suppose with Manhattan rent they can’t be as cheap as I would like, but I still walk out happy. Every time I go it’s a case of over-stimulation: overwhelmed, but happy.

Half.Com

There are quite a few people who love half.com. I understand – hardbacks for 75 cents? Oh, be still my open, empty wallet.

I would include some book swapping sites, as well, but I never got good at sharing and giving things up. I only let go of a book if it gets damaged, so best not to forget to return them, okay?

Coffee, the other legal addiction

As an afternoon reading a book is never complete without a favorite beverage, next, how to make a great, cheap cappuccino, on a cheap, shiny machine!

Porto Rico Coffee

Porto Rico Coffee is my favorite coffee place, ever. You can smell the coffee from outside, and when you step outside after a trip in, you can actually smell it on you, oh yum. They have my favorite espresso in the world here: Espresso Cent’anni.

If you like flavored coffee, they use natural flavorings and ingredients. If it has an orange flavor, there will be bits of dried orange peel in there. If you like hazelnut, there will be hazelnut slivers in with the beans.  I personally love the French Cinnamon.

Breville makes wonderful, affordable small kitchen appliances.  There is a wish list.

I have an old friend waiting on the couch open to page 138, and my two cats are keeping the blanket warm for me. It’s a date.

Cheap Love,

Gloria