Readers Share Secrets for How to Clean Leather Boots, Save on Hand Soap and More

Every day I learn something new from my clever readers. Take fine leather for example. I think it’s safe to say we’re all aware that Italy is where one would find the best. I’d just never thought about the Italians have superior knowledge for how to care for said leather. While I love today’s first great reader tip, I have to admit that Lysa made me laugh out loud!

REJUVENATING BOOTS. Olive oil removes salt and stains from leather boots and shoes. Shines the leather, too. It’s an Italian thing. Lysa

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GOOD TO THE LAST SQUEEZE. I hate wasting any little bit of a product I’ve paid for. After the toothpaste has squeezed out its last glob, I cut off the tube about an inch from the cap. I can get another 5 or 6 brushings from what remains. Debbie

SAVINGS ON LIQUID SOAP. Those foam pump dispensers are so nice. But they seem expensive for the amount of soap you get compared to the amount of water in the bottle. I save the dispensers and refill about 1/4 of the bottle with liquid hand soap and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Put the top back on and roll the bottle around until the soap dissolves into the water (may take a little time to fully blend the two). Voila! I have a refill bottle of liquid soap that takes me years to use up because I use so little of it to refill a foam dispenser bottle. Kay

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Smart, Savvy Readers Respond Kindly

My favorite thing about being your humble blogger is getting feedback from my readers. Most of the time your letters are so kind and encouraging—containing tips, questions or other relative information. Only now and then do I get a negative “Shame on you!” or “Choose your words more carefully!” which I take under advisement while hitting delete. Many times though, your messages offer additional information regarding something I’ve written about, from which all of us can benefit.

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RABBITS IN THE GARDEN. Blood meal (garden center) works really well to send bunnies away from any kind of garden—flowers or vegetables. Blood meal is also a natural rabbit and deer repellant that  works incredibly well. Just sprinkle it on the soil around each plant. Keeps squirrels out too! (As always, read the product label for instructions and cautions, especially if you have pets. -mhKath

BEST SHOE REPAIR. You asked, so here’s my contribution for the best shoe repair in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Minn. area: Gene’s Hartland Shoe Repair. Gene’s been repairing shoes for many decades. His website (hartlandshoes.us) has tons of helpful information about caring for shoes, too. He’s just the best! Sue

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Get Pesky Rabbits Out of the Garden

DEAR MARY: Love your column! Now that it is spring, it is time to put out beautiful young plants, hoping for flowers all summer long. My problem…rabbits!  They munch my plants right down to the ground. The vegetables I put in a fenced area are safe, but the bunnies make short work of my perennials and annuals that are out in the open. Any ideas? Connie

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DEAR CONNIE: Short of fencing your entire property and then attaching chickenwire to the lower 18-inches all the way around, there are two labor-intensive tactics that seem to work pretty well: 1)Plant vegetables they hate in with the flowers to repel them: peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and squash. Not very attractive so perhaps this will be more appealing to you and the rabbits: 2) Plant vegetables they love. Give them the beans, peas, parsley and rosemary they crave to draw them away. Just plant this rabbit bait far from the beautiful flowers.

DEAR MARY: I know you’re a big proponent of living with cash. I’ve tried it but I really like the convenience of a debit card and am able to better manage my spending with it. The problem is I’m not earning any interest on the money in my checking account—none! Do you know of any high-interest checking accounts that would work well for a person in my situation? Maxine

DEAR MAXINE: These days, “high” interest is a relative term. Thirty-years ago that would have meant 9.00% APY or more. These days? Compared to nothing, I suppose 2.00% APY could be considered “high.” 

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Life Lessons from a Daffodil Garden

I love the story author Jaroldeen Edwards tells (Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner) of the trip she took with her daughter one bleak and rainy day. She wasn’t that thrilled to drive more than two hours to see flowers some woman had planted. But her daughter was insistent. “You’re going to love this, Mom!” Tell me what mom could resist going along with that kind of enthusiasm.

They drove along the Rim of the World Highway, inching their way toward Lake Arrowhead through fog and drizzle in the San Bernardino mountains, north of Los Angeles, Calif.

By now, Jaroldeen was so agitated, she was certain she was being kidnapped by her daughter. Still not convinced this could be worth the trouble, Carolyn parked next to a small stone church and announced they would need to walk along a path, through huge, black-green evergreens and over a thick blanket of old pine needles.

Just as they turned the corner, Jaroldeen stopped dead—literally gasping in amazement. “There before me was a most incredible and glorious sight! So unexpected and unimagined.”

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From the top of the mountain, sloping down several acres across folds and valleys, between the trees and bushes, following the natural flow of the terrain, were rivers of daffodils in radiant bloom. Every color of the spectrum of yellow blazed like a carpet before them.

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Cooking in Foil Packets Gets Everyone Out of the Kitchen

No matter what you call them—hobo dinners, meal-in-one packets or fun-with-foil—packet meals are a real kid-pleaser that gets everyone out of the kitchen. If you’ve never tried cooking in foil packets, you’re in for a tasty treat.

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Here’s what’s so great about packet meals: You don’t heat up the kitchen because you cook these meals outdoors on your grill or camp stove. And cleanup is a cinch. No pots or pans, only foil and that goes straight into the trash.

Surely there is a scientific explanation for why ingredients wrapped in foil and set over a hot grill taste so fantastic yet require so little effort. However, I prefer to think of it as magic. And what fun it is.

General instructions

Preheat grill to medium-high. Cut pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil that are 12 by 18 inches each. If using regular foil, prepare double thickness foil for your packets.

Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place items in the foil per the recipe. Bring up foil sides. Double fold top and ends to seal packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside. 

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Secrets of Super Savvy Grocery Shoppers

I flinched at the thought. Buy produce from that store where nothing costs more than a dollar? I probably came across as a snob when I asked my friend if it was even safe. I mean, where would food that cheap come from?

She pushed, so I agreed to go along, but only as a spectator.

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Oh, the bargains I found there—beautiful, first-quality produce: lettuce, scallions, a seriously large bag of ginger root, five pounds of Russet potatoes and six heads of gourmet garlic in a mesh fabric bag. Five items, just 99 cents each for a total of $4.94. On that day the same items would have cost $11.88 at the neighboring supermarket. My skepticism evaporated quickly making me a convert and a regular.

My experience with chopping the cost of produce is a drop in the bucket compared to the food shopping methods of people I consider extreme grocery shoppers. Just keep this in mind: Not every method works for every person. Discover what works for you and then hone that method to a razor’s edge. Soon you’ll be bagging bargains and bringing your food costs down—extremely!

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Cheapskate Gardening Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? One trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth and weed killer can pretty much zap all of the joy for the expense that can represent. That’s why I love today’s tips, tricks and, back by popular demand, homemade weed killer.

But first, check out my garden—spring flowers and a few weeds I treated only yesterday.

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GARDEN VITAMINS. While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden would love them. Used coffee grounds are like mega-vitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds around the plants and work them into the soil. They’re even the right color. If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, don’t despair. Starbucks has a program called Grounds for Your Garden, where they package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners, for free. Pre-packaged bags of Grounds for Your Garden may not be available in all stores. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your local Starbucks.

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Cybercrime Alert for Grandparents

There is a very real and terrible scam going on in the U.S. and abroad, in which grandparents are being targeted.

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The scam begins with something most grandparents don’t get enough of—a phone call, email message or a message through Facebook from a grandchild. The scammer, impersonating that grandchild, is frantic and says he’s been hurt in a car accident, or arrested, or gotten in some kind of trouble and needs money fast.

One former scammer told CBS News that he can easily make $10,000 in a single day. He just keeps calling until someone bites. Then he does it again and again.

A typical conversation goes like this:

Hey, Grandma, Hi Grandpa … It’s me Johnny. I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. Yeah, Ashley is good. But I’ve got a problem. If I tell you, just keep it between us. Don’t tell Mom and Dad—they’d freak out and they wouldn’t understand. I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI. Things got out of control, and I need you to pleeeeeze send me money.

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