No Longer Alone But Technologically Stranded

Can anybody hear me out there?My cable has been down since early this morning and it feels like I’m all alone without phone, internet, and TV. It’s a good excuse to do some chores though.

We now have one house next door and yesterday it looked like the new neighbors were moving in. When I opened the blinds this morning I noticed they had a cable guy setting up service for them. Apparently, whatever he did to set them up killed our connection and there’s no telling when it will be up again.

I have an “emergency” call in and it could take until 9pm to get someone out here again. Nice. Thank goodness I have a cell phone or I couldn’t have even notified the cable company!

We haven’t met the new neighbors yet but I spent some time making my homemade butter cookies with cream cheese icing for a housewarming gift. Eric and I are hoping to stop by tonight to deliver them and welcome them to the neighborhood. They are our first (and only) neighbors so I think it is important to formally introduce ourselves. Word is that the builder sold all the lots around us so it won’t be long before I’m making more cookies and repeating the ritual.

Do people bring over homemade goodies to new neighbors these days? I’ve never done it myself but I’ve also never owned a home before. When we moved in, nobody at the far end of the street came over to welcome us as the newcomers. Perhaps the meet-and-greet obligation only applies to the neighbors in close proximity, if at all?

Maybe people just don’t interact with their neighbors the way they used to in the old days. Who knows? Either way, it doesn’t bother me too much. I tend to be pretty quiet and keep to myself but I think it would be nice for us to welcome the neighborhood newbies.

Anyway, if the cable isn’t up for 6 hours at a time they will credit you a day. I’m at hour 4 already. If you have extended outages in your service, make sure to call and request that they credit your account. You shouldn’t pay for the time you didn’t have service, especially when it is their fault the outage occurred in the first place.

UPDATE: I now have my connection back! They also credited me for the day. Turns out the cable guy from this morning cut my line (no telling why) and a new guy had a run another one on top of the grass to fix it. Tomorrow they will send out a crew to bury it and hopefully that will be the last of it. I hope the dig crew doesn’t do too much damage to the lawn but I’m glad to be up and running again!

Do you bring goodies over to new neighbors? Do you feel that it’s a dying tradition?

Image Source: C.P. Storm

Creating Something Useful From The Sentimental

Apparently quilts can have mental issuesSorting through all these old clothes, especially the high school stuff, has put me in a strange position.

Although I’m donating the majority of the items, there are still those pieces that I feel I can’t part with.

I know it’s a little irrational; after all, I haven’t even seen these clothes in years. If they were so special why did I leave them in boxes in my garage all this time? I know, I know. It doesn’t make sense but emotional reactions often don’t, right?

I immediately felt a rush of nostalgia when I spotted the little black dress I loved so much among the other clothing in the box. During a time when I sometimes struggled with the way I looked, I always felt so pretty in that dress. It reminded me of all those fun high school times and brought a smile to my face. After reminiscing for a bit I wondered how I ever fit into it. It looks so small now. There is no way I’ll ever fit back into it. Such is life.

Turns out, I found a bunch of clothing in that box that I couldn’t bear to give away; that cute pleated skirt that I wore until it fell apart, that funky pair of jeans that made me feel rebellious, that stained chef’s coat that I wore to work. I want to keep them, but what do I do with them if I can’t wear them anymore?

My friend suggested I make a “crazy quilt” from the clothing. It could be my high school memories keepsake quilt. A lot of the fabrics are varied in texture and pattern so it could make an interesting piece. Turning that clothing into a quilt saves space and allows me to keep those sentimental items in a more useful form.

I have always wanted to learn how to quilt and a crazy quilt is a good place to start. A “crazy quilt” is a fabric panel made from irregular scraps randomly arranged together. That would be a fantastic way for me to incorporate all the different fabrics into one mismatched but meaningful piece. I bet it would be a great use for old baby clothes, too!

Because of my lack of sewing skill, I believe any quilt I attempt will end up being “crazy”, even if it wasn’t supposed to be. Might as well go with it and this style sounds very creative and fun.

I also like the idea of combining all my memorable old clothes in one (more compact) form. When it comes down to it, I think it is the fabric itself that’s evoking the emotional response. I don’t think the memories will disappear if the clothing isn’t in its original form anymore and if I keep the clothes intact they just end up hidden in a box again. I think I’d rather be able to enjoy those memories more than once a decade.

Do you have clothing from a special time in your life that you have trouble giving away? What did you do with it?

Image Source: onebyjude

$728 Worth Of Stuff Out The Door

Easy-Peasy!This weekend we gave our first big clothes donation to Goodwill. We sorted through all the clothes in our closet and pulled out anything we didn’t intend to wear again.

A frilly tie-dyed blouse (with sequins, no less) and a bright Mai-Tai patterned Hawaiian shirt found buried in the back of the closet come to mind.

The majority of the clothes weren’t nearly as horrifying, thank goodness. It’s mainly t-shirts and polos that just never got worn anymore.

We also got rid of most of the clothes that were too small, with only a few exceptions for clothes we really liked and hoped to fit into again someday. We are realists, though, so only a few too-small items got to stay.

We don’t go through our closet very often, and as a result there were clothes that should have been given away a long time ago. There was enough to fill 3 large boxes!

After entering all the items into ItsDeductible, we discovered our donation was worth $728. That’s awesome! Not only will someone else get the benefit of having these clothes but we get a tax deduction. It’s a win-win situation.

Using ItsDeductible is super simple and it works with TurboTax. You simply search for an item and it will give you the value based on condition. Old clothes are sometimes worth more than you would think! We tend to be conservative and value everything as medium quality, even if it has never been worn.

To make the process easier we looked at the categories in the program before we got started and tallied our donations according to those. I highly recommend sorting that way.

For instance, instead of writing “men’s shirt” we broke it down into t-shirt, polo shirt, dress shirt – just like ItsDeductible does. It made inputting the information a breeze. The more specific you are in what the clothing is the better. Best of all, you can transfer the information to TurboTax when you are done.

Even though we reduced the clothing in our closet by about half, we are just at the tip of the iceberg. There are boxes and boxes of old clothing in the garage that we have been carrying with us through the years for some reason.

Maybe it’s laziness. It’s easier to just leave it in the garage than to go through it, I suppose. No more! Every box will be opened and dealt with. I’m on a donation rampage!

Sunday we started going through those long-neglected boxes. Most of the clothes are from “way back when” so almost all of it will be donated. I am in the process of laundering those clothes for the next round of donations. Even though they are clean, they have been sitting in boxes for years and could use a freshening up. I figured that it’s a nice thing to do and helps get them on the racks for sale as quickly as possible.

Donating all this clothing is almost addictive. I can’t wait to see how much our next load adds up to!

Not Good Enough For Goodwill?

A sea of thrifty clothingI’ve been donating a lot of stuff to Goodwill and have discovered they can be pretty picky sometimes.

A few years ago, we brought a U-Haul worth of old furniture (Eric’s old stuff) to Goodwill and the manager came out to sort through it. She took most of the things but the biggest items (two large black couches) got rejected because they had some white cat hair on them.

We laughed about it for days, saying that our couches were so lousy that even Goodwill didn’t want them. I hadn’t considered that something as simple as cat hair would disqualify them from being donated. Unfortunately, those poor hairy (but still useable) couches ended up at the curb on trash day. We figured if Goodwill didn’t want them that no one would.

After another unexpected rejection I started to wonder why these perfectly useable things weren’t good enough. By talking to my friend who used to work at Goodwill, I learned that many people, including myself, have misconceptions about what Goodwill really does. I assumed Goodwill resold donated items at very low prices to help people who need to make their paycheck really stretch. That isn’t their true mission, though.

Goodwill sells the donated items to help raise revenue so they can offer employment opportunities and workforce training. Their focus is on getting people back into the workforce, not necessarily providing low cost goods to lower income families.

If you’ve ever been in a Goodwill store you may have noticed that the prices weren’t at rock bottom levels. The prices are a little higher than what you might think a thrift store would have. My friend said it seemed that middle class shoppers looking for good deals were their primary customers instead of low income families like you might expect.

So, now it makes sense. Goodwill doesn’t want everything you have to donate; only the items that they can resell at decent prices without additional work. The items need to be in good sellable condition when you drop them off. That way they can get the highest price for that item and raise the most funds for their employment programs. I think the work they do is wonderful and now that I know what they are looking for I’ll make sure to screen my donations more carefully.

OK, now I know why Goodwill deemed my hairy couches unworthy but I hate having to throw out useable items I no longer want because they aren’t in top condition. For example, two perfectly good but scratched up end tables or a stained coffee machine. They may be ugly, but they are still functional and could help out someone in need.

They don’t belong in the trash just because I no longer need them and they aren’t in sellable condition. I’m sure that there are plenty of people that would be willing to take in a scratched end table. Maybe someone who doesn’t have the money to spend on end tables might have the time to refinish them. I need to find a way to reach those people.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place where even slightly damaged (but fully functional) things could be given to people who need them? I’m sure there are lots of families that could have benefited from having those black couches, even if they had some cat hair on them.

My friend suggested that next time, before trashing the rejected items, I try contacting other organizations that could use them, like:

Furniture can be especially helpful in shelters where they provide transitional housing for people getting back on their feet. My friend mentioned that she donated several pieces to our local shelter that provides temporary housing for abused women. What a wonderful way to give that old furniture a second life.

If donation isn’t an option there is always freecycle. Someone is bound to want your extra stuff and this way it doesn’t hit the landfill before it is completely used up. Everybody wins!

What do you do with the things you want to donate or give away but don’t have the time to fix up? Please share your ideas!

Image Source: get directly down

15 Random Household Tips From Cyberspace

Listen up!This weekend, I received an email from my father-in-law that had all sorts of household tips in it. Some of the tips I knew about but some I hadn’t seen before. I thought the 15 tips below were interesting enough to share with everyone. Hopefully you will find them helpful as well!

I haven’t tested these out yet but I did write some comments below.

If you have tried any of these tricks before please share with us if they really work!

1. Reheat Pizza
Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza. I saw this on the cooking channel and it really works.

I may try this out on my leftover pizza for lunch today. It’s worth a shot!

2. Easy Deviled Eggs
Put cooked egg yolks in a zip lock bag. Seal, mash till they are all broken up. Add remainder of ingredients, reseal, keep mashing it up mixing thoroughly, cut the tip of the baggy, squeeze mixture into egg. Just throw bag away when done easy clean up.

3. Expanding Frosting
When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

4. Reheating refrigerated bread
To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

5. Newspaper weeds away
Start putting in your plants, work the nutrients in your soil. Wet newspapers put layers around the plants overlapping as you go cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic they will not get through wet newspapers.

Weeds can get through plastic but not wet newspaper? Hmmm.

6. Broken Glass
Use a wet cotton ball or Q-tip to pick up the small shards of glass you can’t see easily.

I use a damp paper towel – that way my hands are protected and I can cover a larger area

7. Squirrel Away!
To keep squirrels from eating your plants sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. The cayenne pepper doesn’t hurt the plant and the squirrels won’t come near it.

I wonder if this would get expensive? I wouldn’t do this around pets – the cayenne can irritate their eyes and nose.

8. Flexible vacuum
To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.

9. Reducing Static Cling
Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and — ta da! — static is gone.

This could come in handy – I’ve always had to use a static spray.

10. Measuring Cups
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don’t dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

I like to rub my cups with a dab of oil so the ingredients slide out.

11. Foggy Windshields
Hate foggy windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the windows fog, rub with the eraser! Works better than a cloth!

12. Reopening envelope
If you seal an envelope and then realize you forgot to include something inside, just place your sealed envelope in the freezer for an hour or two. Viola! It unseals easily.

Putting the envelope in the microwave for a few seconds is quicker. I tried it out here.

13. Conditioner
Use your hair conditioner to shave your legs. It’s a lot cheaper than shaving cream and leaves your legs really smooth. It’s also a great way to use up the conditioner you bought but didn’t like when you tried it in your hair.

Great idea! I bet this would work just fine if you used a thin layer.

14. Goodbye Fruit Flies
To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass fill it 1/2″ with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid, mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!

15. Get Rid of Ants
Put small piles of cornmeal where you see ants. They eat it, take it “home,” can’t digest it so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works & you don’t have the worry about pets or small children being harmed!

I’ve had ant problems before but never heard of this method.

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