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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leftover Texas Caviar Creation: Soup!

As I mentioned yesterday, I made a TON of Texas caviar. Then--through a series of blunders--we got to the festivities late. Everyone must have been starving because, as we walked in, we felt the vibe of nearly 40 people pigging out. It was hard to get to the food.

We missed Mark's famous beef dish. And a couple of other things. There were many, many choices. Someone made moussaka, which was great. There was some spinach salad left. And we got a bit of Brigitte's genuine French King Cake (as opposed to New Orleans Mardi Gras King Cake). Since Brigitte is a genuine French person, this is as it should be.

Even though some of the food trays were decimated by the time we showed up, our offering made quite a respectable showing and received several compliments. We only had a few cups left.

I am quite sure that the key to frugal eating is based on honoring one's leftovers. I like to turn leftovers into new dishes. I searched Texas Caviar Soup to no avail. Then I tried Cowboy Caviar Soup.

Bingo! I came upon the blog of a Hollywood private chef, who made this soup.

Cowboy Caviar Soup-
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups fresh black eyed peas
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon ground cumin
salt to taste

3 spicy chicken sausages, preferably jalapeno chicken (Trader Joe’s makes a great one), diced
1 green jalapeno, diced (optional, omit if you prefer less heat)

Cowboy Caviar Relish-
1 cup fresh black eyed peas
½ red bell pepper, finely diced
½ yellow bell pepper, finely diced
1 green jalapeno, finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
¼ cup cilantro, finely diced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

This is basically a pureed black-eyed pea soup topped with Texas caviar relish. She adds some sausage, but I think that might be overkill. I'll be trying this tonight. Thanks, Chef Sasha.

This is my one opportunity to eat as the genuine movie stars do.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Scary News, Little Pleasures

More scary news in the big world, even scarier than the last batch.

I am so lucky that I am able--on a lazy evening--to sit back and watch Trevor Nunn's Twelfth Night.

Not only was it fun in itself, but I was actually WORKING. I am teaching Shakespeare's play next week, and the plot--for a reader--is head spinning. Not so for a viewer.

I am lucky in another way. I can wander down my back steps and pick some scallions and cilantro. Then, since I have to attend a pot luck dinner/musical performance tonight, I get to make a dish that uses some of my bounty: Texas caviar. I've eaten this, but never made it: WHY? It's easy and good. In fact, Mr. FS urged me to make a ton, so he can eat the leftovers tomorrow.

Texas caviar is a frugal recipe: black-eyed peas are the caviar. Recipe from Pam Anderson.


* 2 (15.8 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
* 2 fresh medium jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and minced
* 1 small onion, cut into small dice
* 1/2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into small dice
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
* 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
* 6 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin


1. Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and refrigerate 2 hours or up to 2 days. Before serving, adjust seasonings to taste, adding extra vinegar, salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.

EASY! I have a number of Pam Anderson's cookbooks. My favorite is Perfect Recipes for Having People Over.

I also love her book on losing weight. She lost 50 pounds, eating real food and without starving herself. I would use these recipes even if I weren't on a diet. Actually, I am not on a diet.

How lucky I am in my cilantro and scallions. And how wonderful Shakespeare is!

What is love? 'tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Little Bargains Here and There

I have learned--as have many others--that WHAT YOU SPEND is more important than HOW MUCH YOU SAVE. So "saving" 50% on a $300 sweater may not be better than SPENDING $40 on a sweater. Sad but true: the price to value ratio is not always what one would hope. I seldom find that you get what you pay for.

Also, I KNOW that many--and that includes me--buy TOO much. Still--and just ignore the following two tips if you want--most of us do buy things both necesssary and discretionary now and again.

In the NECESSARY category. I noticed that Amazon had a crazy low price on Community Coffee Instant with chicory.

Both my children use instant in their college dorms and Mr. FS and I bring instant to work. These are $9.99 for FOUR 7 oz. We bought enough for free shipping. These "expire" in March, but I scoff at such dates. Hopefully, not to my peril--or worse.

In the DISCRETIONARY: Garnet Hill, the elegant and funky catalog, has FREE SHIPPING, TODAY ONLY and ONLY if you click through their FACEBOOK page.

I have discovered that occasional good deals are offered on Facebook. I'm not even ON Facebook and I certainly don't want to "FRIEND" a store. Still, it's worth an occasional glance to see, especially if, like me, you don't look at very many places.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frugal Fun in New Orleans

People--myself among them--are always moaning about how expensive it is to have fun. I just got a lengthy email from Frugal Son, detailing his weekend in New Orleans celebrating his friend Reggie's birthday.

He drove with his friend Harrison. They stopped at Central Grocery in the French Quarter for a famous muffuletta.

Last time I had one--or actually a third of one--I almost passed out from the ingestion of oil and salt. They are so good. Luckily, Frugal Son and his friend are young men with powerful metabolisms, so they could split one and continue on with their day. Cost $14.00 or $7.00/each.

Then, on to the party. The group gathered at the New Orleans Fairgrounds for some horse races. Entrance is free. Frugal Son noted that "men in suits and women in fancy hats" could pay $7.00 to watch from the grandstand. Frugal Son placed 3 bets and ended up losing $8.00.

Cost of day so far is $15.00.

Then a large group went to the Mona Lisa, an Italian restaurant which has been around for a long time (since 1987, so a bit older than the birthday girl). I don't know how much Frugal Son spent, but I guess that with dessert and (I hope) treating the birthday girl, the meal came to $25.00 or so.

Total of $40.00. Then the group continued with their festivities . . .

That's a lot of fun for $40.00.

Happy Birthday, Reggie, and congratulations on getting in to Boston University Law School.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Drugstores for Groceries? YES!

I just posted this over on College Cooking. I thought this might also be news for my FRUGAL followers.

This comes under the category: I thought everyone knew this. However, since most of my peers don't know this, I can only assume most College Cooks are likewise unaware of the riches (or staples) lurking in the drugstore.

This may be news you can use. For many, grocery stores are at a distance from campus, a problem for the time-challenged College Cook. There seem to be drugstores on every corner. In my town of 8500, there are often two drugstores on every corner, as CVS and Walgreens are facing off.

Now you may suppose that drugstores only carry overpriced convenience foods or snack items. Not so, College Cooks. They carry more staples than you might think, AND (for after all, I am FRUGAL) they have good WEEKLY SALES.

Just for a glimpse at my Walgreens this week*:

tuna 69 cents
peanuts 1.99/lb
cereal (cheerios, fiber1) 2.50
Kraft mayo 2.99
butter 2.50/lb
bacon 2.50**
coffee of various kinds, instant and regular

Not to be mentioned in polite company, box mac and cheese (69 cents) and those bowl things that you can microwave (99 cents).

They always have pasta, milk, and eggs also, the latter two at decent prices.

Now, for the **:
* You may need a coupon. The coupons are in the ads at the front of the store. Ask a cashier for help if you can't handle this task.

** The ad says "ready-to-serve bacon." Could this be the pre-cooked slices? I've never used the product, but I would think this would be great for the College Cook. It does not require refrigeration, and can be sprinkled on some of your soups and pastas. Must check on this, faithful readers.

CVS and Rite-Aid have similar sales.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Free Lunches for College Students

By Frugal Son

It seems to be a requirement that at some point in life, in order to successfully complete the metamorphosis from adolescent to adult, one must go through a period of voracious appetite, limited income, and even more limited cooking skill / desire / capability. Instead of the more elegant process undertaken by caterpillars wishing to become butterflies, humans appear to require a steady diet of Twinkies, queso dip, and Chinese take-out to make the transition to adulthood. College is often looked back upon with nostalgia, though rarely for any lost gustatory pleasures. College, however, does not have to be a desert barren of delicious food, and especially now that more and more universities are improving their dining hall facilities. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned in previous posts, dining halls can be expensive, and even though I’m not the poor, starving college student of yore, I still enjoy seeking out alternative avenues of alimentation.

One of the avenues I have been taking advantage of this year is something that can probably be found on any campus: free church lunches. Though I have known about these lunches since my freshman year, either my schedule or my conscience has interfered. Not being a member of any Christian denomination, I always felt like a fraud when I went to the lunches. It would have been better if I could have a few friends to go with, a sort of group camouflage, but it was hard enough to find time in my schedule, let alone that of even one friend. So, I normally went alone, and anyone looking lost or friendless is immediately descended upon my hordes of (well-intentioned) people wishing to draw you into the fold. The prospect of this kind of attention kept me away on the few occasions my schedule would have allowed and during my year in France I mainly forgot about free lunches.

This year, however, the free food gods have smiled on me; not only does my schedule allow me to go to all three lunches offered per week, but at least two and sometimes even five friends, are able to go with me! So, since the beginning of this year, we have been faithfully going to three churches per week: the Baptists on Monday, Episcopalians on Wednesday, and Catholics on Thursday. The food is often quite good, although there have been a few dud lunches, filling but unexciting, where the church just ordered pizza or made pasta with sauce. This being Louisiana, however, I can count on having red beans and rice or jambalaya at least once per week, but other highlights have included gumbo, rice and gravy, meat pies, and fried chicken. Each church also has its own flavor. The Baptists always have great desserts (homemade brownies, cupcakes, cake, and cookies) but they often have small group discussions at the table, which can be rather intense and uncomfortable. The Episcopalian church has great desserts as well, but where they really shine is in their salads—whether they be fruit or vegetable they are always fresh and tasty—and in their generosity. They always offer seconds and on one occasion, the servers even came around to bring us seconds of meat pies! The Episcopalians also have a short talk during each meal, but, since the theme of the lunch is “Lunch with C.S. Lewis,” it is always a discussion of one of his books, which is often interesting. The Catholics have the most impersonal lunch (it’s also the largest; probably 500 meals per week versus about 200 for the other two): you just walk in, stand in the long, snaking line, get your food and eat wherever. Perhaps because of the size of the crowd, their food is often the least interesting, tending towards the types of meals that are easy to make in quantity and the desserts are cookies from a store. No complaints, however, because for the Catholic lunch we are free to eat outside on the grass.

There really aren’t many things better than stretching out on the grass with a plate of hot jambalaya and enjoying the company of friends, especially if, as luck would have it, it is one of the precious weeks of Louisiana’s fall when heat and humidity are replaced by crisp, cool air and beautiful blue skies. Moments like that, regardless of one’s faith, are something that I think everyone can agree to be thankful for.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What to do with Gizzards: Dirty Rice, Of Course

I never heard of this dish till I moved to Louisiana. In my 20 years here, I've made it once. That's because they had some already-ground-up gizzards at the grocery, so I overcame my own squeamishness and made some. It was great! My version was much simpler than the one below: just gizzards/livers, onions, bell pepper, rice, and green onions. Plus whatever Cajun blend was at hand, probably Tony Cachere's.

Recipe is courtesy of this site.

A Cajun-style dirty rice recipe.

* 3/4 pound chicken gizzards
* 3 1/2 cups hot chicken broth or beef broth
* 1 to 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
* 4 tablespoons butter, divided
* 1/2 pound ground lean pork
* 1/2 cup chopped onions
* 1/2 cup chopped celery
* 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
* 1/2 cup chopped green onions with tops
* 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon black pepper
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or a few dashes Tabasco sauce
* 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
* 1/2 pound chicken livers, finely diced

Simmer gizzards in the chicken or beef broth for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove gizzards with a slotted spoon; grind or mince. Reserve broth. Heat bacon drippings and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy casserole. Sauté the pork and gizzards over high heat until pork is no longer pink. Lower heat; add vegetables and seasonings and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add rice and reserved broth; bring rapidly to a boil, stir once, cover, and lower heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, until rice is tender.
Sauté minced chicken livers in remaining butter for 3 minutes. Toss with the rice, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if necessary. Cover and let rice fluff in a 225° oven for 10 minutes .
Serves 4 to 6.

Does this sound good to you?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Frugal Cooking with Julia Child

Although the great JC is usually associated with traditional French cooking--time-consuming and exacting--she does have a frugal side that emerges in the books after the chef d'oeuvre for which she is known.

In From Julia Child's Kitchen (1975), she has this gem. (And PLEASE: Don't buy the book--apparently out of print--for such a ridiculous sum. Get it from the library or via interlibrary loan!).

Julia recounts a conversation she had with a fan during the "1972 Meat Boycott." I have no recollection of this event, since I was in college and too poor to buy meat anyway. I suppose meat went up dramatically during the inflationary 70s (?). A man told her that he and his wife had moved to cheaper meat cuts and that, instead of just broiling steak, they were having stews or stuffed cabbage and even . . . more fresh vegetables. Maybe, he said, they were getting to be gourmets.

Julia opines (and what a wonderful writer she is): Certainly the road to gourmetude is not paved with steaks and chops, nor with mountains of foie gras and truffles, nor even with great wads of cash, though there is nothing wrong with any of these, particularly the cash. Wonders can be done with the simplest of ingredients, and indeed the genius shows forth his true qualities when faced with humble means.

She follows with a recipe, based on one by Richard Olney, for a ragout made of whatever veggies are at hand (she uses onions, garlic, artichoke, rutabaga, parsnip, carrot, potato, Plus others--all optional except the first two), plus--if you have them--chicken hearts and gizzards.

She says "proportions are of little importance," which is good, since I don't feel like typing out the whole recipe! Did you all get a squeam attack when you got to the chicken hearts and gizzards?

I admit to a bit of squeam myself. Last time I looked, chicken gizzards and hearts were around a dollar for 20 oz. Humble, indeed. Tomorrow, another recipe using this ingredient.

Olney, by the way, is a rather over-the-top writer, whose style and persona do not appeal to me. I do own some of his cookbooks nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Overheard at the Food Bank Thrift Shop: Demographics High and Low

Since I had to return some items to the library (frugal habit number 1), I stopped--as is my wont--at the Food Bank Thrift Shop (frugal habit number 2). This is a rather weird thrift store, but the cause is a good one and I like to patronize when I can. The store caters to a much poorer demographic than Goodwill; many customers have vouchers for free clothing.

Tuesday is always a crowded day at the Food Bank next door. I have noticed that the cars are very fancy--many a Lexus and the like. I always thought these were the volunteers.

Au contraire, as it happens. The new guy working at the shop was regaling a customer with "things I've seen." He mentioned that people with iPhones and designer bags walk in with vouchers for $200 in food and clothing.

He said, "These people were only one paycheck from the Food Bank."

WOW. Be a good steward of your resources and amass that emergency fund (frugal habit number 3).

Monday, January 17, 2011

ERGHHH. Black and Decker Toaster Oven Disaster

Not quite. But my whole house smells like smoke. Luckily, Mr. FS put the toast in (as I am known for being a klutz). He produced a black piece of what-used-to-be toast. This is a dangerous machine, poorly designed. For details, see the NEGATIVE reviews. Unfortunately, I was swayed by the positives.

Remember how happy I was with my purchase? Well, no more. Evidently, I cannot return to Amazon, but must return to Black and Decker. UGH. Not worth the cost of mailing the product.

So....readers...what should I do?

And, if I have to replace, which one should I buy?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Waste Not: Cheese, Parmesan Rinds

By popular demand (two comments), I will soon post occasionally on ways to use dried bread. Right now, though, I feel the urge to inform (or remind, if you already knew this) that dried CHEESE is also a treasure.

I'm not talking about soft cheese covered with pink mold. I hope you never let your cheese get like that. I'm talking about dried out hard cheese. A little truc that I first learned about from one of Martha Shulman's old cookbooks is to throw parmesan rinds into your soup. Most recommend this for minestrone, where it provides an obviously compatible enrichment.

This is, of course, great with parmesano reggiano (almost as expensive in Italy as here), but it's also good with any block parmesan or its relatives asiago and pecorino. I saw a tub of reggiano ends at Whole Foods a while back: I think it was priced at $8.99/lb, so the secret is out.

You can also use dried up cheddar and the like in any soup where it suits your fancy.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on winter greens, which had a recipe that used parmesan ends.

Parmesan broth with Swiss chard and white beans

A deeply satisfying soup that can compete with chicken noodle as a winter cure-all.Serves 4 to 6.

Over low heat, steep 8 cups chicken stock with 8 ounces Parmesan rinds for about 45 minutes, until the rinds are soft. Strain the liquid and reserve. // In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté 1 smashed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until garlic just begins to color. Add 1 dried red chili, crumbled; 4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons; and stir to coat. //Add the warm, strained stock and 2 cups canned cannellini beans and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon lemon zest. To serve, ladle soup over a slice of toasted country bread and drizzle with olive oil. —Sara Jenkins of Porsena and Porchetta, New York

Hmmmm. Strange to think of finding recipes in the WSJ. I'd rather read a recipe than the self-aggrandizing essay on the Tiger Mother (how to raise superior children the Chinese mother way) that is THE MOST READ ARTICLE in the history of the on-line WSJ.

Which would you rather read?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Waste Not: Food

Am I late to the party? Not surprising. The party I didn't know about concerns WASTING FOOD. This is not on the micro-level of family tales (there are starving children), but on the macro-level. Here is a piece by Jonathan Bloom on the topic (now we're all in the party).

Wow. So 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted. The author makes the point that, while we all talk about getting energy-efficient cars and so on, we don't talk about--or think about--the energy involved in getting food to us. Not to mention in packaging it.

Interestingly, we were the recipients of food largesse from some friends of Frugal Son: we received a giant bag of crawfish and a big bag of pecans. Both were "free" to those who gave them to us. And then we had "free" food.

Now that I've read the essay, I realize all the ways this most virtuous of food was not really free. Multiply by a zillion times and that's grocery food.

How do you feel about these findings?

I must say that I am feeling even more appreciative of my gifts.

Jonathan Bloom wrote a book!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

How to Save 10% of Your Income, Courtesy of Andrew Tobias

Andrew Tobias was the first personal finance writer I ever read. I didn't know there were such things. From that first reading, I learned that buying tuna on sale and storing it in your closet is a form of options trading--only with a guaranteed return. That was the one from of investment I could practice in my graduate student days, since I had to eat anyway.

I once recommended his book on a blog that asked for book recommendations. My suggestion received many scoffing responses--mostly along the lines of "too dated." Well, some is, but most isn't. Plus, he's a good writer.

Near the end of his book, he gives this advice, for if YOU STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. He says "Save 10% of your income and invest for long-term growth."

To the HOW? he responds:

If you have a retirement plan at work. just have 10% of your pay automatically shunted into it. If not, set up an automatic monthly transfer from your checking account to your investment account. There is someone in the world making 10% less than you who is not ragged and homeless. Live like him.

There is someone in the world making 10% less than you who is not ragged and homeless. Live like him.

Is that not brilliant?

OMG. His book is updated! Take that, you scoffers!

I love you, Andrew Tobias.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mixing and Matching and Using What You Have: Clothing

My two favorite style bloggers are thinking about what works, what doesn't, and so on. If they have trouble, why is it surprising that the rest of us (esp over 40) do also? Duchesse, by the way, reports that her 2010 choices were better than her 2009 choices. Une Femme d'un Certain Age is looking ahead and making a list. This is a never-ending process, it seems, as we try to accumulate just the right amount, and not too much.

I was thrown into a quandary by the purchase of some chocolate brown ponte pants from the dreaded Chico's. I just happened to notice that the store was RIGHT NEXT TO THE APPLE STORE where we took our Mac for repair. I was not distracted by the sweaters and jackets on sale; I got the pontes at a great price. You all may know that I detest Chico's because of a somewhat humiliating customer service experience. But the pontes do fit and the sale was sufficiently wonderful that I suspended my Chico's boycott.

What do I wear with brown pants, I asked the salesperson. First she showed me a lime green top (you have got to be kidding--probably my least flattering color). When I looked horrified, she pulled out turquoise. I paid for the pants and left.

Poor Miss Em! She is so good at helping the middle-aged put things together. I bugged her for days. I knew I was annoying. I was even annoying myself. She was leaving for school this morning, so I told her it could wait till Mardi Gras. Ten minutes later, I discovered an array of choices set out for me! All great. Why can't salespeople do this?

Thank you Miss Em for creating a frugal and non-cluttering solution.

Isn't using what you have the ultimate frugal activity? Have you been using what you have?

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Trivial Post for Troubling Times, with Hermes and Marcel Proust

I haven't posted for a few days. How to write about my little frugal adventures when so much bad stuff is going on?

Anyway, after 30 years of hoping to find one, here is my latest thrift purchase. After reading around the internet, I'm quite sure it is the real thing: weighs around 2.2 oz, has the detailing, has handrolled hem stitched to the front, etc.

I suppose trivial things are the most important. Or so says Mr. FS. Actually, Mr. FS attributes the idea to his favorite writer, Marcel Proust.

Are there any trivial events you would like to celebrate?

Friday, January 7, 2011

American Opportunity Education Tax Credit: Textbooks Included

For all the laments about the rising costs of college, there are plenty of people who pay low or no tuition. For some, perhaps most, this is need-based. For others, including many members of the middle class or beyond, this is merit based.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I have mentioned the American Opportunity Tax Credit to many people and not one had heard of it. There have long been tax credits for tuition and fees. And for most, tuition and fees ate up--and continue to eat up--the credit, In 2009-10 (and, I think extended in the recent lame duck congressional session), TEXTBOOKS are included in the $2500/year potential credit. TEXTBOOKS were never included before.

Because both of my children made use of their National Merit Scholarships, they pay no tuition or fees. THANK YOU CHILDREN FOR YOUR CHOICES. Like many, I have been appalled by textbook prices. Even with all my ingenuity and frugal bloodhound skills, I have seldom managed to save very much.

As of 2009, I can relax. The French text is $120 plus a $90 computer pad fee...well, tant pis.

But many don't know about this. My daughter wanted to lend her books to her pal last semester. The books were keepers and I didn't want them to go astray. Miss Em's friend had very high SATs and received free tuition at the same college. I told Miss Em to tell the friend to tell her parents that they would be eligible for the credit. Via the grapevine--from a doctor--a thank you.

Miss Em's hometown friend who received both need- and merit-based aid was lamenting the fact that she couldn't accompany us to Goodwill for a fun shop because she had to save for her textbooks. I told her to tell her mother about the credit. I hope she does.

Many students in Louisiana (TOPs program) and Georgia (HOPE credit) pay no tuition. Other states give free or reduced tuition to students--like my daughter's friend above--who have high SATs or ACTs (over 1400 seems to be required; over 1500 will be better. This is just for the first two parts. For the ACT, I think over 30 is the requirement. It may be higher.)

Even students at private schools may receive tuition scholarships. Textbooks, often not covered, are estimated to cost around $500/semester. I think this is a low estimate, since textbooks prices--like prescription drugs--are both required and prescribed by people often clueless about the cost to the users. Much has been written about the constant, unnecessary revisions in textbooks, which render used books unusable.

OK. Enough of that rant. For those who pay no or low tuition--and this perhaps applies to community college students in some areas--the American Opportunity credit can BE USED FOR TEXTBOOKS.

I hope Miss Em's pal's mom files an amended return for 2009 and 2010.

If you know anyone in a relevant situation, please pass on this info!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Buy or Not to Buy: A Question on the Extended Warranty

My faithful readers know that we learned we needed an expensive repair to our Mac SEVEN DAYS before the warranty expired. So happy.

Today, Mr. FS and I ventured to Baton Rouge, land of malls, to the Apple Store. We had to relinquish our computer; we hope to get it back in a week or so. While Mr. FS handed over the machine, the Apple fellow offered an extended warranty: $170.00! He explained that Macs are very expensive to fix. Unlike clunky PCs, which you can often fix yourself, the beautiful Mac requires an expert. It takes an hour just to remove the screen. (At how much per hour, I wonder.)

So it seems the virus-free Mac DOES have a dark side, what with pricy repairs lurking here and there. My general rule has been that anything the company is eager to sell you (extended warranties, cancer insurance, variable annuities, bundled services, to name a few) is probably more in the interest of the company than the consumer.

But what think you on the subject? Should we get the extended warranty? Or should we just say no?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Two Amazing Reads on PF and Frugality: John Bogle and Une Femme

Oh, how I love John Bogle of Vanguard. He is an inventor and proponent of index funds and investing principles so simple that a 5 year old can comprehend. I just read an interview with him that, as always, impressed me. Bogle, by the way, saved my sanity during the financial meltdown, when I witnessed all my savings/investments lose tons of money. In one of his books, he says "Things always revert to the average." That's the argument for index funds also.

Next up: the great blogger Une Femme d'un Certain Age. I discovered her blog over a year ago when I strayed from my usual reading on frugality. Well! As the Wife of Bath says (paraphrased), women do tend to wander by the way. Une Femme is a writer of great talent, with a great eye for style as well. She also writes on more serious subjects, even when she seems to be writing only on style.

Anyway, yesterday when I returned to the blog world after having been out of town for a good bit, I discovered that Une Femme took on the topic of----FRUGALITY. And, guess what? She was inspired by one of my posts. I am so honored.

Her post is one of the best statements I've seen on frugality, which has to do with good use of resources--not just money, but time, stuff, and so on.

I wish Une Femme would write a book. In the meantime, Bogle has penned many. Here is one I've read.

And this one.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Bit of Luck for the New Year

On New Year's morn, I cooked up some lentils. I got a little nervous. Later, I asked Frugal Son if it HAD to be black-eyed peas for the new year or would lentils suffice? Black-eyed peas, he averred.

I never ate the things before I moved to the South. I think the black-eyed peas are optional anywhere else, but I did not want to bring the bad karma down on me. We need that gris-gris.

Our first dinner was traditional: black-eyed peas, greens (still from the garden!), a little bacon. I think rice is traditional, but I made mashed potatoes anyway because I love them.

Next day: Miss Em inserts DVD into drive on our Mac. Mac goes crazy. This happened before. The nice people at Best Buy removed the DVD at no charge and we forgot about the problem.

Mr. FS very gloomy: We need to get this fixed. It will cost hundreds of dollars. Me: gloomy too.

Sunday at noon: Mr. FS sets out on the sad journey to Best Buy. Guess what? Our Mac is under warranty for SEVEN MORE DAYS.

MORAL: Eat your black-eyed peas. Eat your greens. No matter how you cook this traditional fare, it will be frugal. And what could be more frugal than good luck?

The best Louisiana cookbooks are the ones put together by the various service organizations around the state.