Garlic and Sage Infused Oil

It’s sage season, and our community herb garden has a patch of it that has overgrown its boundaries. Sage is no longer a polite little section of the garden. It’s grown to the point where it’s looming over other herbs, overtaking the space and is threatening to choke the oregano, parsley and thyme. It’s a rude herb that is a ‘close-talker:’ even our resident garden gnome now feels threatened.

Herb garden, now 90% pure sage. (Can you spot the nervous gnome?)

Herb garden, now 90% pure sage. (Can you spot the nervous gnome?)

There are the obvious options of using sage: Drying the leaves and keeping them until winter. Using the fresh leaves in the cavities of poultry, or crumbling the dried herb in stuffing. But infusing your oil is one of the best ways to keep the fresh summery taste of the herb.

Only two things frighten Herb The Garden Gnome: Having his natural habitat overun with sage, and botulism.

Only two things frighten Herb The Garden Gnome: Having his natural habitat invaded by sage, and botulism.

Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment, even in a sealed bottle.

Flavoured olive oils and dressings make great gifts, but botulism is a potential danger.  One potential danger involves putting anything in the oil that contains any trace of existing juices. That would include garlic, lemon peel, fresh peppers, and fresh herbs like sage.  The oil will not support bacterial growth but the moisture found in fresh herbs or vegetables will. Botulism bacteria can grow in this type of environment, even in a sealed bottle. There are three ways to avoid botulism.

  •  Mix all the ingredients, refrigerate them and use them within a week:
    This is the best way if you are using fresh ingredients such as fresh basil, fresh rosemary or garlic. Garlic is ideal for adding to pasta dishes, that you can then top with a little grated dry cheese. Fill a decorative 1-litre bottle with extra virgin olive oil. Add a clean head of garlic (whole if desired), and leave to marinade for a few days. You can also use lemon peel, fresh or dried peppers, ginger, rosemary sprigs, etc.
  • Use only dried version of the herbs and spices. Dry your citrus peel before infusing it olive oil, make sure your herbs are dry and crumbly before adding them to your cold olive oil. Strain out the herbs after a few days.
  • Fry your garlic and sage and use them with the olive oil that day – strain the solids out, and use the cooled version of olive oil within the week as well. It’s great on salads, and adds another subtle flavour to stir-fries.

It was garlic season, and having attended the annual Garlic Festival at Wychwood Barns in Toronto this weekend, I had quite the collection to play with. I’d eat garlic with garlic if it didn’t mean alienating everyone around me within a five kilometre radius.


  1. Use your choice of garlic, and some fresh sprigs of sage. Generally, two tablespoons of herbs per cup of oil is a suggested measure.
  2. Toss your garlic and fresh sage into a sauce pan, and cover with enough olive oil to cover everything.
  3. Set your burner to medium-low heat (you’re not trying to cook the oil,) bring the heat up to 180°, let the oil cool, then strain out the sage and garlic.   This makes the oil infuse more quickly and reduces some of the risk of bacteria growth, but it can also leave the oil with a slightly “cooked” flavour.
  4. Use the cooked sage and garlic in a stir-fry or smear it across a slice of baguette.
  5. Pour the cooled oil into an attractive bottle and refrigerate. Remember, olive oil solidifies when refrigerated, so you may need an wide mouthed jar or bottle if you want some of the stuff fast.
  6. Enjoy!


Laziest, Easiest and Most Elegant Dessert Ever

A bunch of friends dropped in unexpectedly, just as I was cleaning out the fridge. You know how it is: Offer them something appealing and in this heat, a frozen treat seemed sensible.

Problem? No ice cream – in fact, no sweets at all in the fridge or freezer.

My solution? I added some honey to plain Greek yogurt, and grated in a bit of lemon rind. Then, I smeared the works across a cookie sheet as evenly as possible. Dotted with fresh raspberries it looked pretty, so I put it in the freezer. The berries and the yogurt froze into a single sheet frozen yogurt bar.


Breaking them off into organic chunks somehow makes this look more interesting. It also prevents “perfectionist stress:” No fuss about chipping a perfect rectangle, here.

Instead of slicing them into perfect squares or rectangles, I just broke them off into irregularly shaped shards, and placed them in a bowl. They looked like a crystalline formation, or Superman’s northern Fortress of Solitude.

Try it yourself with flavoured yogurt (no honey necessary) and any variety of seasonal fruit. I think this could be a fast solution for vegan friends who want another option to try with nut-based yogurt.

It can be as healthy or as sinful as you’d like to make it. Try experimenting with your favourite flavours or candy as add-ins.

Current price for Del Monte’s Frozen Yogurt Bars: (Price seen on $7.29 for 12 150ml bars.

Homemade: $1.99 plus a few cents more for honey,  and $2.00 for seasonal raspberries.

Try it yourself!


Affordable and Tasty Pink Salt – Tomato Skin Seasoning

My husband and I tried our hand at canning this weekend. You know, it being “Labour Day” weekend, and all, we actually thought it would be funny if we laboured. It was only when the temperature climbed past 30 degrees Celsius that we began to question our sanity. Who stands in front of a boiling stove in the heat of summer? Why?

The idea of putting fresh summer produce away for winter swayed us, that’s why. The romance of popping open a jar of summer-ripened tomatoes to recall the fragrance of sunshine on hot vines in the bleak cold of January seemed alluring. I fear the two of us are more likely to remember bickering over the hot water bath over the length of time boiling should take place to prevent botulism.

The canning ordeal finished, we were left with an abundance of tomato skins. I recalled an article that suggested drying the skins and crumbling them for flavour or colour in soups and such. I wondered if crumbling the tomato skins with sea salt, and herbs would yield a pink, tomato salt?

So many tomato skins...what to do with them?

So many tomato skins…what to do with them?

Flavoured salt isn’t new, but it’s a great way to put the skin to use. We laid out a parchment on a cookie sheet and baked them at 350 Celsius for 20 minutes to get them dry. Keep in mind, my oven is a slow one – anyone else’s may take as little as 15 minutes to get them toasty and dry.

Two standard cookie sheets yields less than 20 grams of dried tomato skins.

Two standard cookie sheets yields less than 10 grams of dried tomato skins.

The trick was to make sure the tomato skins were dry and crumbly, not the consistency of fruit leather. It took fiddling with the temperature and the time until the skins came out with the feel of crisp, papery parchment.

Once the dry skins were measured, we used an equal amount of coarse Kosher sea salt. Once they would be whizzed around in a food processor, the crystals would be ground down.

A view inside the food processor: Look how pretty the sea salt looks with the crystals.

A view inside the food processor: Look how pretty the sea salt looks with the crystals.

Once everything gets blended together, don’t worry if the mix looks a bit lumpy. Add some dried herbs of choice (I’d recommend oregano or rosemary) and put it in a cute glass container. It will make a heck of a seasoning in the dead of winter, or an impressive looking hostess gift in the colder months ahead.

DIY St-Germain Liqueur For Less Than $10

I love St-Germain liqueur: Its cool, pale green colour makes for some pretty looking cocktails, and there’s something about that floral fragrance that just says, “summer is here.”  The only thing I don’t like about it is the price: $50 Canadian for a single – albeit very attractive – bottle is prohibitive.

I came across a great article about summer cocktails to make with St-Germain, and I asked myself, “how can a cocktail-loving penny pincher make this work?” Enter IKEA. How appropriate is it that the company synonymous with assemble-it-yourself furniture would be able to furnish me with the main DIY liqueur ingredient?

All you need is a charcoal filter and some overproof alcohol

All you need is a charcoal filter and some inexpensive neutral alcohol

IKEA sells an elderflower concentrate syrup; mixed with a neutral alcohol, you have your St-Germain liqueur. Here’s how to make a $50 bottle for less than half the retail price. Neutral alcohol refers to an unflavoured alcohol, like vodka, or 94% overproof alcool.

Here’s what you need:

  1. A bottle of “DRYCK FLÄDER,” elderberry blossom syrup
  2. 1 cup (25o ml) of a neutral alcohol of your choice (I used Global brand 94% alcohol, which needed to be diluted a bit)
  3. Brita filter, or any choice of charcoal-based water filter
  4. An attractive bottle

The directions on the bottle say that the ratio should be 6:1, so I poured 2/3 cup of Dryck Fläder (Elderberry blossom syrup.)

IMG_20160722_170420 (1)

Some assembly required: IKEA’s Elderberry flower syrup is part of a great DIY liqueur.

The 94% alcool was harsh – in order to mellow it out a bit, I followed instructions on how to make cheap vodka taste smoother by using a charcoal water filter.

This is some strong stuff. I'd recommend watering it down a bit. You may not

This is some strong stuff. I’d recommend watering it down a bit. You may not need to for vodka, but overproof alcohol could stand some dilution.


Overproof alcohol dribbling through filter

Overproof alcohol dribbling through filter

After running 1 cup of alcool through the Brita, I poured it in to pretty bottle, then added the syrup and shook the bottle for a bit, to mix it all up. The result:


Ta-daah! St-Germain liqueur on the cheap! Not a bad looking bottle, if I say so myself!

DIY Gourmet Pizza: Cheaper than Take Out

If you’re good at starting something, forgetting about it, coming back to it hours later, then homemade pizzas are just the best. They’re so affordable to make, and you can put ingredients on you want on them. Best of all, you can make two pizzas with one batch, and freeze one for those days you’re broke and don’t feel like cooking. Depending on your ingredients, your homemade pizza can cost less than those frozen, cardboard flavoured things you find in the frozen food section of the grocery.

Does it take long? Not really. To be honest, if you start the dough in the morning, or leave it overnight to be rolled out and baked the next day, it’s not too bad. The dough takes about an hour to rise and be rolled out.

Do you need special equipment? Nope. You don’t really need a speed mixer or a food processor, but if you have one – great! It does cut down some of the time mixing the flour and yeast, if that’s an issue. For this experiment, I just used my stand mixer to blend the dough at the beginning.  As for rolling, I didn’t even have a proper rolling pin. I used an empty wine bottle.


As you can see, rolling pins are optional. 


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon quick-rising instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, yeast and salt) together in a bowl, and pour it all out onto a counter. Make a well in the center, so you have what should remind you of a high school volcano diorama.

Next, run your hot water tap and fill your measuring cup until its 1/2 full: Make sure it’s just a little warmer than room temperature, but if you’re that worried, use a thermometer: It should be 120 F or 50 degrees Celcius. Add the oil, and pour this mix into the hole of your volcano. Instant lava!

Now, here comes the fun part. If you were the kid who loved playing with plasticene in kindergarten, you get to relieve your youth again. Start mashing the sides of the flour-volcano towards the centre of the lava pit, and start kneading. Knead it for at least eight minutes straight, or through the duration of three songs from your favourite album. You really can’t over-knead the dough at this stag.e

If you doubt your stamina or your strength, it’s okay to use a food processor with the pastry blade if you have one, or the dough hook on a stand mixer. The proportions of the dough remain the same.

The first stage of kneading will yield a ropey and raggedy dough, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the plan.


The first stage of kneading: It doesn’t look like it now, but this will become a nice, smooth ball of dough.

You can put it in a greased bowl, and cover it in plastic wrap, or just cover it with a large bowl. Put this in a draft-free place and forget about it. Clean up a bit. Vacuum your home. Run an errand or two. Call a friend and invite them over for custom made pizza. The rising stage should last an hour: check it to see if it’s doubled in size.

Cut the dough ball in half. You now have the choice of the following:

  1. Wrap the dough balls in plastic wrap. Put the frozen balls of dough in the freezer for thawing and rolling out later.
  2. Keep the plastic wrapped dough balls in the fridge if you want to bake pizzas within the next 24-48 hours.
  3. Roll out the dough – without the plastic wrap, of course – and dress them.

I’ve rolled out the dough of one of the balls for immediate use. I decided to partially bake the other. By baking it halfway, it means the dough is slightly raw, and perfect for cooling and freezing. When you put the frozen (half-baked) pizza in the oven, it thaws and bakes perfectly, just like a store bought frozen pizza. Except this version tastes good.

Sprinkle two 12 inch pans with flour or cornmeal, if you want a crunchy crust. Put the flattened round of dough down, and start topping it any way you want.

I added the following toppings to mine:

  • Pesto, brushed over the top of the dough
  • Kalamata olives
  • Slices of spicy pepperoni
  • Sliced mushrooms

My significant other, Dominic put three kinds of meat on his

  • Tomato paste to coat the dough
  • Dried oregano, thyme and marjoram (to give the flavourless tomato paste some “oomph”)
  • Spicy pepperoni slices
  • Half cooked bacon (it would burn if placed fully cooked on top of the pizza)
  • Salami

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Farenheit. Here’s the trick to getting the cheese all ooey and gooey: Put add the cheese after you take it out of the oven. Really. Don’t put it on the raw pizza, it will overcook and get crusty. If you like crunchy brown mozzarella, then go ahead, but trust me, half the joy of a good pizza is the way the cheese melts into soft strings as you pull a slice away.

So: Put your veg, meat or other toppings (pineapple? Anchovies? Sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions?) on the pizza and bake the whole thing in the bottom third of your oven, for about 10 minutes. My oven was slow, so this process was 15 minutes. It needed another minute in the oven after I added shredded mozzarella.

trust me, half the joy of a good pizza is the way the cheese melts into soft strings as you pull a slice away.

Result: Two pizzas. The flour was approximately 50 cents, and the most expensive part of the toppings were the meat slices. We bought an immense brick of cheese that was on sale for $5.00, and we only used a third of it. In all, both pizzas cost about $6.00, and yielded four slices each. That makes it $3.00 per meal since we each ate two slices for dinner, and had the other two for lunch the next day.

IMG_20160419_194207 (1)

If I were going to make frozen pizza, I would still bake them in the bottom third rack of the oven at 500 Farenheit, but for only 5-7 minutes. Let them cool, then wrap in plastic, or use a re-sealable frozen food bag.Add the cheese and follow the same rules for cooking. The only difference is that with the par-cooked pizzas, you can put those directly on the oven rack as it cooks.

Here are some other recommendations for pizza toppings:

  • Shrimp
  • Caramelized garlic
  • Seared scallops and béchamel sauce
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Red onion rings
  • Green peppers
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Hot peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Smoked cheese, like Applewoods smoked cheddar, or smoked Gouda
  • Smoked meat (Pastrami, if you’re American)
  • Marinated, grilled tofu

The options are endless.

How to Have Your Best Yard Sale, Ever

It wouldn’t be a true blog about frugality and fabulosity without a post about Yard Sale how-to’s.

Like any Canadian, if it’s raining, I’m inside, purging my home of unwanted goods. If sunny, I’ll be outside, hunting through someone else’s yard sale for hidden treasure.

It’s basically an eco-system of gently used goods; for whatever item I pick up at a garage sale, one item from my home must go. It’s getting easier to get rid of unwanted goods these days, with free online listings to promote your event.

Step 1:

Find a venue. If you don’t have a yard or a garage, ask a friend who does. Would he or she like to share the event? The more the merrier, and it’s always good to have an extra pair of hands on deck for bathroom breaks, or running for spare change.

Sometimes churches, temples, synagogues or community centres may rent out their space to a group. If you get a bunch of like-minded friends, you could consider pitching in to meet the rental price. Ask if you can sweeten the deal by offering to donate a portion of your sales to their cause.

Step 2:

Advertise, advertise, advertise. If it seems excessive, you’re doing it right. Post to as many online classifieds as you can.

  • Print up yard sale ads, and post them to your workplace cafeteria (if allowed) or community bulletin boards and coffee houses (ask permission first.)
  • Start advertising roughly a month before the event. This gives the hard-core yardsalers time to add it to their calendar, and plants the idea in the minds of those who don’t make plans ahead of time. “What shall we do today?” “Oh, I dunno…I recall something about a yard sale going on today…”

Here are some free venues for advertising your yard sale: 

  1. Garage Sales By Map: A free online garage-sale finder. You can post it as far as a month in advance, and you can get an advance posting just by promoting it on your blog or webpage.
  2. Craigslist:  You can post weekly, or pay a nominal fee to keep it on the top. Unlike Kijiji, you can only post two weeks prior to your event.
  3. – you can post your yard sale, and add photos of your location, maps, and last year’s event, if you have any. Update weekly to keep it up top.
  4. Local online and newspapers: Many boroughs have advertising-based print and online bulletin boards or papers. Check their classifieds section, and post.
  5. Social Media: Create an event and post it on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and include daily updates.

Step 3: Prep Your Goods

Display: Make sure you have a wide, clean table, or at least, a couple of sawhorses and a plank. Pretty it up with a tablecloth: Potential buyers are less likely to approach your sale items if the display looks dingy, or cluttered.

Clean your items: Would you want to buy something dusty, chipped, or grubby looking? Of course not. True, there are some hoarders out there, but why make the sale harder than it should be? Wipe off that film of dust and grime.

Book displays: Put books in large boxes with the spines facing outwards: This makes it easier for browsers to see the title, and you can write the price on the box itself, instead of stickering up each book.

Have change ready: There’s always someone at the sale who wants to break a $20 bill for a twenty five cent purchase. Nobody likes that guy, but it’s always best to be prepared.

List your prices clearly: Do you have a “no haggling” policy? Let buyers know with a polite sign on the table. If you’re open to bargaining with buyers, don’t waste your time price tags for each item. If a customer is interested, he or she will ask. Other wise, lump similarly priced items together and make a sign like, “everything on this table $2.” If nobody is buying after an hour, make it a BOGO: Buy One, Get one Free.

Step 4: Have An Exit Plan

What are you going to do with the unsold goods? Part of the idea for the yard sale was to de-clutter you home, wasn’t it? Don’t return the clutter to your house, unless someone paid for a large item, and needs to store it until they can transport it.

  1. Find a charity that could use the items. The Diabetes Foundation of Canada has a service called, “Clothesline” that picks up your unwanted goods, so that takes delivery off your hands.
  2. Try thrift stores, like Value Village: They don’t pick up, but you do get a stamp on a card towards 30% off your next purchase at this thrift store chain for each bag of goods you donate. Proceeds go to charitable foundations.
  3. Homeless Shelters: Call to ask if they are accepting goods, first. Some places have policies on furniture or clothing, especially if they have limited (or no) storage space.
  4. Red Cross: There are some emergency plans for those who were forced from their homes in a hurry: Check out their website for a Red Cross branch near you.

What’s your best tip for a successful yard sale?


Vegan Burrito Bowl for Fifty Cents a Serving

I confess: I’m a burrito addict. Maybe it’s the combination of spices, or the warm tortilla that wraps up the contents in a lovely fluffy blanket, but there’s something about the mix of beans and rice that just says, “comfort food.”

This spring was a tough one, with snow, ice, rain, then more snow coming down almost daily. I don’t think I’ve seen the sun in a week. Sunshine can only be faked in the kitchen with some cilantro, chili peppers, cumin, lemon pepper and smoked paprika. That’s right: If you want to feel the heat – stay in the kitchen.

Though I’m not too far from Kensington Market, the idea of dragging myself out into the cold, damp misery that is early April in Toronto is not appealing…even if it is for fresh from the oven tortillas.

Fighting off a flu, and hobbling about in my kitchen, I had only a few ingredients and a limited reserve of energy to make myself food. Canned beans and a pot of rice is my home version of fast food. I know, purists would soak and boil those beans, but then again, those same purists would be out there planting and hand-picking their own beans, giving each one a name and storing it in an artisanal, hand-crafted vessel.

There are times when canned beans are a blessing, and flu season is one of them. When bought on sale at 79 cents per can, it’s a healthy and very affordable deal. The breakdown for this meal comes to fifty cents a serving, including the rice and cilantro. The avocado brought it closer to a dollar, since I bought a bag for $3 at my green grocer, earlier. The rice was bought in bulk, so it came out to less than what I’d usually pay for pre-packaged brown rice.

I know, purists would soak and boil those beans, but then again, those same purists would be out there planting and hand-picking their own beans, giving each one a name and storing it in an artisanal, hand-crafted vessel.

Another frugal benefit: Leftover beans and rice can be used in soups, stews or stuffed into veggie-burgers. More on that, later. Now, on to our adventures in Cooking While Under The Influence of Cough Syrup!

First step: Take a deep swig of cough syrup. Room spinning? Check.

Second step: Take one cup of brown rice, wash it, and toast it a bit in the pot. This will give your rice a bit more depth as well as guarantee fluffy brown rice.  Add three cups of water or veggie broth – whatever you have on hand, really.  I’ve dolled up my rice with a sprig of bay leaf. Bring it to a boil on your stove top, cover it, and then turn off the burner.


Third Step: pass out for an hour while the rice steams.

Wake up to your rice being fully cooked. Feel righteous that your rice came out looking restaurant worthy. Celebrate with another swig of cough syrup.

Next, pick a medium sized yellow onion, and slice it into rings. Sauté the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until they are soft, and slightly translucent.


Next, open the can of beans and rinse it. Yes, I know I’m lazy, but this step is an important one, and even at my most sluggish, I rinse the beans. Why? Some beans break down or get mashed in the can, leaving a pulpy residue. Some also say that rinsing the beans reduces the cellulose that contributes to gas; I just don’t like murky looking beans darkening the rice.

See how nice the beans looked when they’re rinsed?


Toss them in to the pan along with the onions. Add the following spices:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon lemon pepper (or more, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

You can add chilli peppers, chopped jalapeño peppers – whatever floats your boat, really. I decorated it with some fresh chopped cilantro and some avocado:


Look at them. I mean, just look at them – like little ovoid suns, suggesting balmier temperatures and warmer climes. How could I not put them in my burrito bowl?

Here’s a look at the finished product:


If this fragrant and spicy bowl can’t kick my bug to the curb, nothing will. I’m only sorry I didn’t chop up some jalapeño peppers for some extra kick, but I can add them to the leftover mix tomorrow.

Now for the truly important question I know you’re dying to ask: How does it pair with cough syrup? Let’s be honest, nothing pairs with cough syrup. I’d recommend a cerveza or a tequila based cocktail, if you’re imbibing. If, like me, you’re medicated, and know better than to mix over-the-counter medication with alcohol, a hot lemon tea works with this meal, too.

To your good health!

How To Get Free (Or Almost Free) Clothing

Like the changing of the leaves, those of us living in chillier climes change our outer gear seasonally. This means hauling out storage boxes that were carefully packed with moth-deterrents like cedar or camphor, washing, ironing and trying on clothes to see if they still fit. This ritual is often followed by a quieter ritual of weeping and self-recrimination, when waistbands appear to have magically shrunk themselves.


image by SmileyHaiku of


If, like me, you have been lounging about all summer and making some questionable food choices (helpful tip: Ice cream doesn’t constitute supper) – some of your favourite sweaters, pants and jackets won’t fit the way they should. What to do with the clothes that don’t fit, especially if you can’t really afford an all-new wardrobe?

The good news: There are some sweet ways to score new-to-you stuff, at no or minimal cost.  If you’re bound to your desk during the day, there’s still a way to hound down that hard-to-find sweater or a way to ditch the cute-but-not-that-cute dress while you are within reach of your mobile.

Free Apps and Websites to Find Free Clothes

  1. Freecycle.  This free online website is like an electronic trading post. People post what they are getting rid of, but members of the community can also list items they are looking for. You can sign up for daily “digests” – an email that summarizes items people are giving or hoping to get. You can sign up for various neighbourhoods, such as locations near where you live or work.
  2. Free apps like TrashNothing, Kijiji and CraigslistPro.  Yeahhh…it’s a mixed bag. There’s no real guarantee about the quality or the availability, but it’s always worth a shot.
  3. Peerby, the app that lets you borrow something from a neighbour. Their motto is, “want something, but don’t want to buy it?” This app is strictly for those who will return the item to its owner after borrowing it, but it’s great for those moments you simply must have a handsaw to complete your lumberjack Halloween costume.
  4. Barter is coming back, but unlike our grandparents’, we are using technology instead of trading face-to-face. Swapsity and Swapdom are websites that have members list what they want, and what they are willing to part with in exchange for the item. Swapsity is also a great resource if you’re looking for a service that you’re willing to barter for, such a re-upholstery or handyman work.
  5. Vinted is an app that also gives you the option to sell your unwanted clothes online, but if you’re looking for clothes to swap, it might be a good option to check out.

Image courtesy of “dierregi” of


Find a Local Clothing Swap – Or Host Your Own

  1. Host a clothing swap.  Bring your friends together – the more the merrier. The wider the array of sizes, the better. Have snack foods ready, and donate anything that is left behind to a charity of your choice. Friends get clothes, purge out their closets, and donate to a cause they believe in: win-win!
  2. Check Facebook or any local newspaper for clothing swaps in your area. Perfect for those who don’t have the room/time/energy to host.

Speaking of which, if you are in the Greater Toronto Area, there will be a clothing swap held on October 29, at the Arts Market (846 College St.) on October 29, 2015 at 7:30 pm. A donation of $5 at the door will go towards Urban Wildlife Care, a group dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of our native wildlife.  Bring your fall/winter seasonal clothes, and only the stuff that’s in good shape: Nothing frayed, broken or missing buttons, please. As with all clothing swaps, kindly do not bring underwear or swimwear.

If you’re still looking for a Clothing Swap in November, Toronto’s West Coast Swing community will be holding a charity clothing swap to support CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.) Please bring your previously-loved clothing, shoes and accessories to the Dovercourt House (805 Dovercourt Rd.,) 3rd floor on Sunday afternoon, November 8th at 2:00 p.m. The cost is $10 and all proceeds go to CAMH. All attendees will be eligible for the Door Prize: a pass to the Sweet Side of Swing – Northwest 2016 event taking place in Vancouver, June 24-26, 2016.


How to Host A Clothing Swap Party

What’s not to like? Clothing Swaps are cheap, it forces you and your friends to finally purge your closets and dressers, and you can have an excuse – not that you need one – to finally get together.



If you bring drinks, a clothing swap will give you a semi-legitimate reason to get tipsy before noon. Or afternoon. Or all day. We at Champagne Tastes and Beer Budgets do not judge.


  1. Select friends with similar tastes, but a wide range of sizes. A sweater from one friend can be a cute sweater-dress for a shorter guest.
  2. Give your guests a minimum of two weeks notice so they can go through their closets and dressers.
  3. Set up the invitations: You can use Evite, or any other free online invitation service. Some prefer Facebook to set up the event, to see who is and isn’t going, and post updates to rally reluctant hoarders along.
  4. Have food ready.  Finger foods that you eat easily with one hand that won’t leave grease or powdered sugar markings are recommended. Try deviled eggs, hummus on crackers, raw veggies. (Once everyone has made his or her choice, and the donations have been packed up, you can bust out the messy snacks.)

Set up the rules early. Post them on the Facebook event page, include them in your emailed invitation, and refresh everyone’s memory just before you begin:

Suggested Rules for a Drama-Free Clothing Swap

  • Take turns. Put names in a hat, and pick who gets to go first. Limit the number of items to three per turn to keep it fair and moving fast.
  • Use “tickets”. The host hands out a ticket (can be a playing card or a poker chip) for every item a guest donates. If a person brings 10 items, she gets 10 tokens with which she can purchase 10 new items.
  • One bag in, one bag out. Everybody goes home with the same number of items that they brought in, unless they want to donate it.
  • Have everyone agree on a charity to donate to.  Pack up the clothes that are left behind – after making absolutely sure nobody wants it – and send it along the same day. Nobobdy wants clutter in their home overnight.
  • Create display areas. Set up folding tables, or dryer racks. If the weather is good, try the clothing line outside. Otherwise, large storage bins and chairs can work well as temporary displays.
  • Have a fashion show. If two people want the same thing, opt for a “who wore it best” episode.  Have each contestant try it on, and decide by consensus who wears it better. If it might spark animosity, flip a coin.

Tastier and Cheaper Than Storebought: Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise: It’s the base for “Special Sauce,” found in countless seafood salads and deviled eggs, and it’s the creamy, heavenly stuff that gives tuna sandwiches their mystique.

Egg, oil and a fresh lemon. That's all you need.  Image by "Seeman" courtesy of

Egg, oil and a fresh lemon. That’s all you need. Image by “Seeman” courtesy of


What if I told you that you could not only make mayonnaise with only three ingredients, and it would take less than fifteen minutes? You don’t even have to be a good cook. In fact, you could be the World’s Worst Cook, and you could still pull off this killer condiment.

Here’s what you need:

  • One egg, large or medium-sized at room temperature (more on the importance of this, later.)
  • The juice of half a lemon, or a tablespoon of cider vinegar
  • A cup of canola or vegetable oil
  • Salt, to taste (I start with 1/4 teaspoon)

All you need is either a blender or a food processor with the sharp, metallic blade, the one that looks like a ninja throwing star.

  1. Make sure your egg is at room temperature. A cold egg will not whip up into a creamy texture as quickly.  You can cheat this process by putting your egg into a bowl full of hot – not boiling – tap water, shell and all.  Keep the egg warming in its bowl while you assemble all the other ingredients, or put your food processor/blender together.
  2. Juice the half lemon and pour it into the blender bowl. If you don’t have a lemon, use a tablespoon of cider vinegar. White vinegar is a bit harsh, and balsamic doesn’t quite have the same acidity or “bite” that we’re looking for.
  3. Crack the egg and pour that into the bowl.
  4. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt over this.
  5. Turn on your blender, and whizz the whole thing around until it turns a light, frothy pale yellow. Keep the motor on as we go to step six:
  6. Gently, slowwwwwwwly pour in the oil; If you pour it all in too quickly at first it will curdle.  Just pour a thin filament from your measuring cup into the oil dispenser on your blender or processor. drizzle
  7. keep steadily pouring it into the blender as it’s running – you’ll hear the mixture start to thicken as you pour: The mayonnaise will start out runny and steadily go from a gurgle to thick, slurpy sound.
  8. When you’re out of oil, turn off the machine, and spoon the mix into a clean mason jar.  This stuff will last about a week in the fridge.

Cost: Currently, a 1.5L jar of Kraft’s Miracle Whip is on sale for $5.99.   I used a 4L container of oil that cost $3.98, using only 1 cup of oil, which cost 25 cents.  I used a tablespoon of cider vinegar, which I’m going to say cost roughly 0.10 cents at a tablespoon (I bought a 1L jug) and salt which I won’t evne try to calculate.

A whole jar of homemade mayo, rounded up is less than 40 cents.