How to Create the “Dirty Denim” Look

Are your teens hounding you for the hot look known as “dirty denim?” Okay, so you like it too. I won’t hold that against you. But I might change my mind if I find out you or your kids spent $80 for a pair of dirty denim jeans (or $750) when the ones that look neat and clean are much less expensive.

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I’m not a complete fashion fuddy-duddy. I like to stay current as much as the next person. And I suppose I am warming up to the dirty denim look. But I simply cannot bring myself to pay more for it. You don’t have to, either.

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Whacky Doodle Ground Beef

Years ago I made a terrible mistake. I froze ten pounds ground beef. That big block of frozen hamburger languished in my freezer for years. What was I thinking? I should have browned it first then frozen it in usable portions. But browning beef in a skillet can be so messy!

A few weeks ago I came upon another cheap ground beef opportunity. The expiration date was nearing and my supermarket needed to get rid of—you guessed it—ground beef. Ten pounds. I almost walked by. Then I decided to try something different, albeit a little weird.

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I put the entire ten pounds of raw ground beef into my big stock pot, added enough water to cover and set it over high heat to come to a boil, no cover, no salt. After about 5 minutes I gave it a stir to break up the big clumps, which were few. The hot water was doing all of my work for me—no splatters, no mess. When all of the pink color disappeared I knew it was done, even though it had not started to boil.

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Best Inexpensive Vacuum Sealer and Best Room Humidifier for DIY Fumigation

What do vacuum sealers and apartments that smell like a stale ashtray have in common? Absolutely nothing other than these two messages showing up in my mailbox at the same moment—both of them in response to recent posts.

Dear Mary: Just a few days ago I purchased a Ziploc Vacuum Sealer. It’s still in the box, unopened. A couple of hours later I could have kicked myself when I opened the newspaper and read your column on the FoodSaver vacuum sealer. Now I’m thinking of returning the Ziploc machine and getting the FoodSaver. Before I go to the trouble, I wanted to know if the Ziploc sealer might be comparable to the FoodSaver, in your opinion. Patti

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Dear Patti: Honestly, I have never tested or reviewed the Ziploc machine because it does not offer one of the most important features and reasons to have a vacuum sealing system—a jar sealer. I use the jar sealer (both the regular and wide mouth sealer because I have both kinds of jars) accessory more than any other feature on my FoodSaver because I love to store everything from popping corn to fresh fruit in glass canning jars. Even perishables like strawberries and lettuce, when stored in a glass jar—and kept in the refrigerator—last so much longer than they would in other kinds of containers. I do love my FoodSaver for all of its features but would be lost if I couldn’t use it to vacuum seal jars and wine bottles too. FoodSaver also makes a set of canisters that are as useful as they are attractive—just make sure you never put them in the dishwasher.

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The Simple Science of Eliminating Bad Odors

Some of my fondest childhood memories have the name of my sixth grade teacher written all over them. Mr. Migaki loved science and that made me love it too with his amazing experiments, formulas and scientific method. He made school so much fun.

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I kinda’ feel the same way about my friends Lou and Ted, owners of Nok-Out. Every time I call them with yet another challenging odor problem, I learn more about the how and why of Nok-Out Odor Eliminator. It really does eliminate (not cover up) odors—even the most challenging.

Dear Mary: Help! I recently bought a pair of garden Bogs (waterproof footwear that feels like it’s made of rubber) at a rummage sale for a just few dollars. I was so excited to find them that I  purchased them without realizing they wreaked of chemical lawn fertilizer. Once I got them home, I realized my mistake. I tried to remove the odor using full strength Nok-Out, then with vinegar and even submerged them into a bucket of salty water.  Unfortunately, none of my attempts did anything to eliminate the odor. Any suggestion that would help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks! Jill

Dear Jill: This is a tough one, so I sent your dilemma off to our friend Ted at Nok-Out who went right to work. First, he needed to find out the exact content of your footwear, which the Bogs folks do not reveal, so he is assuming some kind of a rubber and plastic compound that is quite porous. 

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The Wonders of Hydrogen Peroxide

A few days ago I got a message, which reminded me about wonders of an ordinary product most people have somewhere in the house.

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I had a cut on my hand that opened up while I was putting my expensive duvet cover (recent wedding gift!) on my comforter, now I have blood stains where I touched it. Is there any hope to getting these stains out completely? I tried using a carpet cleaning solution and washing it but, those stains remain. I’m worried these stains will be there permanently. Thanks so much for your help! Georgia

I responded immediately, directing Georgia to soak the stains with full-strength hydrogen peroxide, In hopes that she’d not set those stains forever. I heard back quickly. The hydrogen peroxide lightened the stains almost immediately, and within hours they disappeared completely. See what I mean? The stuff is downright wonderful.

Hydrogen peroxide is as harmless as it is powerful both as a household cleaner and all around remedy. It is non-toxic, safe, really cheap and available in any grocery or drug store in a food grade 3% dilution. It’s a wonderful cleaning product and reliable sanitizer. 

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Finding the Confidence to Make Household Repairs Yourself

Figuring out how to install a new tile floor in her family room paid off big for my friend, Mary Brock, who lives in South Carolina. A close-out sale of 25-cents each for twelve-inch ceramic tile, basic installation tools and a simple how-to-book gave her the confidence she needed to give it a try.

“I got a serious physical workout, great results and still enjoy the bragging rights of a do-it-yourselfer. Plus, with the money I didn’t spend on materials, we got new furniture for the room.”

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Tough Times? Here’s Your Playbook

This is a Guest Post by Donna Freedman, adapted from her new book Your Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul—a book that could make the difference between where you are now and a totally different life. We’re giving away two copies; read on to find out how to win.

Lately, I’ve been hearing concerns about tough times coming back. I say that for plenty of people, tough times never went away.

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Some struggle to stay afloat—getting ahead is a distant dream—and others wonder just where their money goes. If either of those situations sounds familiar, you’ll be (grimly) pleased to know that it isn’t just you. According to the Federal Reserve, our median net worth has decreased by about 21 percent nationally over the past 20 years. However, for the working class—those who earn between $23,300 and $40,499—median net worth dropped more than 50 percent.

Money woes aren’t always about greed or carelessness. Often they’re about the price of homeownership (especially upkeep and property taxes), child care (which can cost more per year than college tuition), groceries, medical treatment, utilities, higher education, automobiles and insurance.

Since most of us are expected to plan our own retirements, a chunk of earnings disappears right off the top—that is, if you’re actually able to do that. When you’re running as fast as you can just to stay in the same place, saving may seem impossible.

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Great Ways to Save at Restaurants

If the high cost of restaurant meals is eating up your cash, here are some great ways to keep your tab lean!

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DISCOUNTS. Many restaurants offer a reduced-price menu for seniors and children. If you or someone in your party qualifies be sure to inquire if this doesn’t show up on the regular menu. Typically these discounted menus offer smaller portions at significantly reduced prices.

SKIP THE SODAS. Skip the pricey drinks and dubious “free refills” altogether and you’ll save at least $2 a person. Lisa B. rewards herself whenever she opts for water by stuffing two bucks into her savings account.

SHARE. Splitting a meal these days is socially acceptable and economically savvy. While some restaurants charge a minimal charge for splitting, most are very accommodating. Even if you have to pay a buck or two to split, it’s still better than paying for two meals you cannot eat completely. If you’re embarrassed about sharing, don’t be. If you must explain, say you are a light eater or that you’re doing your duty to the earth by not over-consuming. Many restaurants are so accommodating they’ll split the meal in the kitchen rather than handing you an extra plate.

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