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A Shoemaker Can Save Your Sole

To some people, a cobbler is a lovely fruit dessert, best served warm. To others, it is a shoemaker who repairs shoes—an almost forgotten trade.

The Shoe Service Institute of America reports that shoe repair shops have dwindled from 100,000 in the 1930s to 15,000 in 1997 to about 5,000 today. The industry may be facing extinction, but business is booming for the cobblers who remain.

 

shoe repair replacing shoe sole

 

According to Randy Lipson, third-generation cobbler and owner of Cobblestone Shoe Repair in St. Louis, shoe repair shops nationwide are reporting a 20 to 45 percent surge in business. Things are beginning to shift as consumers are learning to make do. And for many, that means getting shoes that fit, fixed.

Not long ago I grabbed the opportunity to sit down with Randy and I learned a lot—not only about the value of repairing rather than replacing shoes but also that a shoe repair shop does more than just repair shoes.

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Surprisingly Amazing Ways to Make Meals from Leftovers

How to use leftovers? Oh, let me count the ways. There really are so many ways to make meals from leftovers, something the late Julia Child preferred to call “the remains of the day.” Such an elegant way to refer to leftovers! Regardless, both terms refer to anything from half a pan of lasagna to a dab of mashed potatoes that sit in the fridge until they turn green, at which time we feel a lot better about throwing those leftovers away, right. And these days with the price of food soaring, that’s like throwing cash in the garbage.

The secret to sticking to a food budget is to first find a delicious use for every last bit of what we buy, then have an immediate plan for leftovers, and finally, to be diligent to follow through. Really, it all comes down to choosing to see leftovers as ingredients for new dishes—not just multiple go-rounds of the same thing until it’s finally gone.

 

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Following are some pretty awesome ideas (if I do say so myself!) that have helped me to see leftovers in a new way. It’s a list you may wish to keep handy.

Pro-tip: At the end, look for the tiny printer icon that will let you print out all or any portion of this post.

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Forget the Dry Cleaner: How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter instead of taking it to the dry cleaner, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash a down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally.

You need a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls); a few hours to spend at a laundromat, and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.

A row of industrial washing machines in a public laundromat.

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work as well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1

Big machine

Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

Step 2

Detergent

Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb  thermal insulator.

Step 3

Warm and gentle

You want to wash a down comforter using these settings on the washer: Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent be rinsed out.

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Six Secrets for the Perfect Home Manicure

I wish I had all of the money I’ve spent over the years on salon manicures. It would be quite a tidy sum. And perhaps I wouldn’t have had such horrible nails and even worse cuticles. Thankfully, after untold trials and errors, I’ve come up with the perfect home manicure routine that has turned my nail life around—and keeps me out of the pricey nail salon.

 

Finger nail paint with glass file

 

By way of a little history, over the years I’ve done the acrylic thing (don’t even get me started on what years of that did to my natural nails). I’ve endured wraps, gels, hot oil, dipping powder, and superglue. 

My cuticles have been snipped, nipped, ripped and clipped. I’ve purchased expensive lotions, potions and nail notions but to no avail. Nothing has ever worked long term. 

I’d just about given up completely on finding a reasonable and workable solution for my nails when finally, I put together a routine with specific products that have given my nails a brand new life. I’ve followed this routine for years and can report without hesitation:

This is it—the perfect home manicure and nail care program for dry, cracked, horrible cuticles and jagged, splitting, peeling nails.

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3 Ways to Stretch a Can of Tuna to Feed Four Hungry People

Are the popular “reality” television shows anything close to what you consider reality? Take the venerable hit show Survivor, getting ready to launch its 39th season, for example. To me, that seems more like fantasy than reality. And, honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had to survive on approximately 14 grains of rice per day or think of multi-legged creatures in terms of grams of protein. Still, I think that borrowing a few basic “survivor” attitudes and skills could help us to look at some of the items in our freezers, refrigerators, and pantries—like that lone can of tuna—a bit differently.

A familiar blue can of StarKist albacore tuna

Let’s say that 6-ounce can of tuna in your pantry is the only scrap of protein in the house. You’ve got four hungry people to feed. A trip to the store is completely out of the question (did I mention we’re marooned on a deserted island?… wink, wink). What will you do? What WILL you do?!

That’s exactly the question I once posed to three frugal food experts. Their responses, while varied, prompted me to make sure I have canned tuna on my shopping list as soon as I return to civilization.

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6 Ways to Stop Throwing Rotten Produce in the Garbage

I’m having a difficult time wrapping my head around this documented fact: Half of all produce grown in the U.S. is thrown out, while at the same time there is growing hunger and poverty right here in America.

 

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As I read the first paragraph of this news story, I assumed naively that all U.S.-grown produce makes it to market. Then consumers like you and me get it home, let it go bad before we can consume it and into the garbage it goes. That is a factor, but not the whole story.

The truth is that vast quantities of fresh produce are left in the field to rot. It then becomes livestock feed or gets hauled directly to the landfill because of (get ready) cosmetic standards.

Not every potato, watermelon, strawberry or grape cluster turns out photo-perfect. Some are ugly. And, unfortunately, that means they do not meet retailer and consumer demands for blemish-free, perfect produce.

Just imagine how the retail cost of produce might plummet if all that is produced—even the still-nutritious but ugly produce—were available for sale. More on that in a bit.

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What to Do With Leftover Green Salad (Don’t Throw it Out!)

If throwing out perfectly delicious leftover green salad were a crime, I’d be serving a life sentence.

 

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It kills me to do it, but until fairly recently, I had no idea there was a second life for a leftover green salad, dressed or not. Once tossed, passed and partially consumed, that’s it, right? Wrong.

Salad dressing

Mix the leftover salad in a blender with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and some garlic or herb seasonings and you have dressing for your next salad. I have done this several times now and the results are quite amazing. You have to try it. Just make sure you have your seasonings handy.


RELATED: Get Clever with Leftovers: Coffee, Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes


Make soup

Turn that leftover green salad into hot vegetable soup: Process the leftover salad in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock. Pour into a saucepan, stir in another 1/2 cup stock or the amount needed to create a nice consistency. Heat thoroughly and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs like basil, chives or parsley.

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Retail Panic for Some Means Job Security for Others

I’m not proud of myself for loading up a shopping cart and then in some kind of retail panic, leaving it in the aisle and fleeing the store. Well, maybe I am a little. 

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It was about the most impulsive (repulsive perhaps) thing I’ve done in some time. And it’s all because despite how far I’ve come, I’m still me. And I just happened to be in the area. 

I don’t normally travel in the direction of the largest fabric store in the universe. But I did and there I was, only a few short blocks from the entrance. So I stopped in to just … uh, … look around.

Potential. That’s what I saw. Aisle after aisle of potential gifts, quilts, tablescapes, sweaters, hats, decorator pillows, blankets, pure joy.

There were several bargains that quite frankly one should never pass up. And that is the ONLY reason I found a shopping cart. I mean come on … my favorite brand of flannel—the really good stuff—BOGO (that’s buy-one-get-one-free for you novices)? And flannel-backed satin in the perfect shade of Christmas red for $4.59 a yard? And the most adorable fleece for next to nothing!

I made my way to the cutting table when I noticed something new: A take-a-number machine. Hate those things. But now I’m stuck, so I plucked 73 from its little mouth and pulled back to notice Now Serving 61. 

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