Archive for the ‘Buddy’s Friday’ Category

Back when I was a small child (and I am closing in on 45 fast) I would often receive a bag of goodies that included new (to me) clothes and toys. Back then, hand-me-downs were a common thing.

Hand-me-downs are still common for me.

Eleven years ago when I purchased my first (and current) home, I invited all the homeowners I knew that gardened over for a plant swap. Folks were asked to bring plants that they wanted to get rid of and take whatever they wanted. It wasn’t a tit for tat kind of thing. People just laid out what they had and picked up what they wanted. I didn’t have much to share from my new yard, but ended up with LOTS of plants – mostly stuff everyone else already had lots of. People were thrilled with their hauls and with being given the opportunity to get rid of what they didn’t want without throwing them away.

Since then, I have sort of become a clearing house for people’s plants, clothes and misc. things. I tell people I will take anything you want to get rid of and find it a home. I have been given lovely mahogany furniture that I passed along to friends whose decor works well with the mahogany; solid wood tables from one house to a church; TVs and VCRs from one friend to another.  Electronics, furniture and clothes all come to me, and in turn, I find all of this stuff a nice home… often it is my home. I haven’t purchased new clothes (except, perhaps a few undergarments) in maybe four years. I also find out what people are looking for and spread the word. You never know who has an extra dresser or bookshelf or whatever hidden in their basement or deep in a closet they would love to get rid of.

So, how to start something like this with your friends, neighbors and family?

Start talking to folks. In recent years it was in bad taste to talk about making ends meet or recycling. These days these terms are part of many conversations. Remember, it is not necessary to be down to your last nickel to organize one of these things. This is a great way to not only save money, but save the planet as well. If you don’t need to do it for financial reasons, do it for environmental ones.

Do you have friends that have kids older than yours that you would love to get a hold of some of their clothes? Do you have clothes that your child has outgrown and need to get rid of? Play clothes don’t have to be stain-free, they just need to fit. Do you need to paint a small room and don’t have the funds for the paint? Ask around to see if anyone has leftover paint. Need furniture? Ask around. Do you have a friend who used to be your size but who recently lost (or gained) a bunch of weight? What is she/he doing with their old clothes? Start swapping with others, soon people will want to join your group and get in on the free-stuff and get rid of their things.

Plan a swap. Invite folks you know to bring clothes in their house (theirs, their spouse’s/partner’s, their children’s) and lay them out for others to take and invite them to search through what others have brought. Whatever is left can be taken to a charity or saved for the next swap. Talk to each other at the swap. What do you have in the way of furniture or household stuff that you would like to get rid of? What are you looking for? Start sharing with each other.  Remember, to get free stuff you have to be willing to part with your stuff at no charge.

Can you paint or sew or fix a toilet or …? What do you need done? Can you barter among friends, family and neighbors?

Let’s all share our resources. Find out how we can help each other and ourselves.

BTW, I am looking for a six foot tall bookcase for some friends of mine. They would prefer white but can paint it. If you know of anyone in the St. Louis, MO area looking to get rid of a (free) 6′ tall bookcase – please let me know.


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Before I created this “thing,” my clothes pins were in a small plastic container that I would grab and stick into my laundry basket. Often the pins would fall out of the container and through my laundry basket onto the ground. When I put clothes on the line or took them off, my hands were either full of clothes pins, or I was making lots of trips back to the basket to get more pins.
Now, I have seen these made from old children’s clothes – but since I don’t sew, I needed to make something out of materials I knew how to use and had on hand. Here is what I did.
  • I took an old 2 liter soda bottle and cut the top off of it.
  • I then cut “X’s” into each of the points of the bottle. That way, if it gets rained in it, the water will flow right through.
  • Cut four “X’s” about an inch from the top of the container – cut these evenly around the bottle.
  • Once you have these “X’s,” loop a strong wire (this one was found in my garage) through these “X’s.”
  • Make sure you have plenty of wire, so that you can create a loop to hand over your wash line. I just twisted the excess wires around each other to keep them together.
Ta Da! OK, it doesn’t look like much, it didn’t cost anything, and it was done in under 5 minutes – but it works GREAT! I can slide this along the clothesline easily so my clothespins are right where I want it when I need them. I could have covered it with white duct tape and decorated it, but the clear green plastic sort of disappears against the grass background. 1
Below are some of my previous “how to” pieces:
Of what would you like to see a “How TO?” Drop me a comment.

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Sometimes when I walk into an auto repair shop I feel like I have a big bullseye painted on my shirt. Yes, I’m a woman, and it is true that I know next to nothing about automobiles. I have decided to be a better auto repair consumer.

Example #1: I went to the mechanic to have a safety inspection done (this is required to get new auto plates). I was told that my power steering belt needed to be replaced because it was cracked and tearing. And since there was the drive belt that needed to be taken off to fix the power steering belt, and it was also cracking, that this should be replaced as well. Estimate: $65.28 for parts; $52.50 labor; $2.61 shop supplies and $4.29 tax. Total = $124.68. I still had a little time before I needed the passed inspection, so I said I didn’t want them to do it just now.

This is what I did:

  1. I went to the local auto supply place. To purchase the parts was $37 (versus the $65). Most places will install parts you bring in to them – they just don’t warranty them – which is fine… most parts come with a warranty when you purchase them.
  2. I googled until I found the manual for my car. Most people have these – it comes with the car generally. I bought my used and the manual was not with it when I purchased the car.
  3. In the manual I found the area that needed to be fixed (the two – and only two – belts in the engine).
  4. I looked under the hood. The mechanic said my belts were cracked and tearing. When I looked at both the belts, they looked just fine… almost like new. I did discover, however, that if they DID need to be repaired – it was worth it to pay someone to get to them and replace them.
  5. I took it to another shop to be inspected – and you guessed it – it passed just fine.

I did have to pay the second shop $12 for the inspection – but ended up saving myself $112.78.

Example #2: I went to the mechanic to have my oil changed. The mechanic told me I really needed to change the spark plugs, and that doing so would save me money on auto fuel. I was given the estimate of $126 for parts and labor. I declined. Instead:

  1. I found the cost of the same type of spark plugs the mechanic said he would use. $10 a piece – I need four.
  2. I found out where the spark plugs were housed – right up front. Very easy access. With the right tool, it is probably a 10-15 minute job. I verified that with a friend who knows a lot about cars – very easy to do.
  3. I saw that they would require a special tool to remove the old plugs (I can borrow from a neighbor – but probably would have cost $8 or $10).
  4. I am ready to replace them whenever I get around to it. But guess what? The last two times I have gotten my oil changed, no one else has mentioned that I need to change the spark plugs again.

When I am ready to replace these (when they actually need to be replaced) I will end up saving myself $86.

The take-away is to question and to learn. Don’t just turn over your cash to the mechanic – do a little research if you can.

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First off, there is no way any one person or any one post can give you all the information you need to be prepared. And, there are many different types of emergencies – and no one size fits all. However, it is better to start than not do anything.

A number of years ago I was given a terrific gift by a friend – it is a trucker’s backpack. It has over 15 pockets, 3 carrying options (top handle, side handle or padded back straps), a separate line storage area for dirty laundry, a zippered section that expands the main compartment an extra 3″, a front bottle holder for quick access to bottled beverage, and a waterproof rubber base keeps it dry if it gets set on a wet surface. The backpack is not cheap – just under $40 – but it provides me with a great feeling of security, because, in this backpack (which is loaded at all times) I have:


  • a deck of playing cards
  • book of crossword puzzles
  • several pens
  • a spiral bound notebook
  • 2 paperback books I’ve not read (garage sale finds)

Personal Care:

  • a first aide kit
  • toilet paper
  • wash cloth
  • soap
  • tooth paste
  • tooth brush (still in package)
  • hand sanitizer
  • lip balm
  • hand lotion
  • wet wipes
  • lots of zip lock bags (I know it may sound gross, but I remember that folks who ended up in the dome during Hurricane Katrina couldn’t use the bathrooms because they were all backed up. If I need to “go”, I’d rather be able to seal off the smell and…)


  • several changes of underwear (I can’t stand to feel wet)
  • a comfortable sports bra
  • several changes of socks
  • old hiking boots with solid surface (because chances are good I will be wearing sandals – I’m always wearing sandals).
  • pair of elastic waisted shorts (because I never know what my weight might be)
  • two tees
  • pair of old sweat pants
  • lightweight jacket
  • 3 bandannas – for covering hair, wetting for the back of the neck, a separate on for blowing of the nose (don’t want to waste tp on that!)
  • old baseball hat


  • jar of peanut butter (change every 2 years due to expiration)
  • 4 pouches of tuna (lighter than cans and no can opener needed) – change every 2 years due to expiration.


  • copy of drivers license
  • copy of credit cards
  • copy of passport
  • list of phone numbers
  • copy of social security card


  • extra house key
  • extra car key
  • mini flash light (that doubles as an emergency red strobe light)
  • laniear for whatever I want to keep handy.
  • whistle – in case you get lost – so people can find you by the sound.
  • hunting knife (inexpensive I got from a garage sale).
  • several forks, knives and spoons and a cloth napkin.
  • box of kitchen matches.

A List that tells me what I still need to grab:

  • cat food
  • dog food
  • dog treats
  • collapsible dog bowls
  • collapsible cat bowls
  • water (I have 2 liter bottles and smaller “personal” bottles of water that I change out every 3 months – that way the water will be fresh). I can fit 3 of the 2 liter bottles and 4 of the smaller into my backpack easily.
  • crackers, bread, granola, and any food that will travel well.
  • grab tent (it is always in my car – but I don’t want to forget it if it is needed)
  • grab sleeping bag (it is always in my car – but I don’t want to forget it if it is needed)
  • cat – with personal information attached to the carrier – like my name and phone number and the cat’s name. The bottom of the carrier lined with layers of newspapers (a litter box would be too much!) My cat carrier is large for the cat, so an inch or two of papers on the bottom is not an issue.
  • dog – mine has a collar with information as well as a chip in her shoulder.
  • dog leash
  • laptop computer
  • computer back-up disks
  • purse
  • cellphone
  • cell phone chargers (wall and auto)

If the plan is for evacuation

  • fill gas tank & grab gas can from garage
  • Stop at ATM for cash

So, with about 15 minutes warning I can evacuate my house and know what I have with me. Since I always keep winter clothes (hats, gloves & coat) in my car (call it growing up prepared in Minnesota) – I should be prepared for just about any problem.

I keep it in with me and my furry children during a tornado warning in the interior closet – because if my house is in shambles, I’d like to be prepared.

You don’t need a fancy backpack to put all of this – regular backpacks can be used as well, or large “carry all” bags. Just having everything in one place and a list of things to be gathered at the last minute can help prepare for lots of emergencies.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I have 20 people coming over for a party this Saturday, and if it isn’t raining, I hope that many will enjoy the outdoors. It will make it much easier for the 100-year-old birthday honoree to hear with fewer people talking nearby.

So, as I’m trying to find an easier way to pick up gum balls (I try vacuuming them up with the mower – but that doesn’t work very well), I realize that my old picnic table is in pretty bad shape (notice how easily I can be distracted from gum ball pick-up). I use it for working on my art during the summer, so it is covered in various shades of paint; it is pretty green with moss; and there is a great deal of damage to parts of the wood.



I decide to see if I can clean (and patch) it up enough for folks to use without having to purchase anything new.

Step 1: Clean the table as best you can. I used a scrub brush, water and a little bleach. This is messy, so if you attempt this, wear something you don’t care about. I now have little bleach splatters all over one of my favorite pair of sweat pants.


Step 2: Rinse with clean water (I used a hose with an attachment that let me get a hard stream of water). table4

Step 3: Let it dry in the sun. Once it is dry it looks so much better.table-9

Step 4: Patch the wood. Since I don’t have a gallon of wood putty laying around, I decided to use construction adhesive. I generally have this around because I use it in my cultural artifact art.table-5

I used an scrap piece of wood to give me a flat surface to spread out the adhesive into a nice even area. This needs time to dry.table-6


Step 5: Now to paint. I had some green semi-gloss paint left over from painting the trim last year.

Step 6: For the part of the picnic table that was so badly damaged…

table111I painted the damaged part as best I could, then covered it with a planter.






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I know that the economic situation across the country and across the globe is pretty bad right now. Many people are suffering because of loss of job and loss of homes, and in some cases a loss of community. Many are in pure “survival mode” – worrying about where their next meal will come, or counting down the days until their house is foreclosed upon, or their car repossessed, and spending their waking hours worried about getting a job so they can survive.

Then there are those who are not in survival mode. Some may just be inches from it, but they are not there yet, and others are comfortable. These are the people who can often go about their life without worrying – and that is what most do. However, there is a growing group of people who are helping others. There appears to be a growing trend to do good – and I am excited. I have seen the BEST in people come to the forefront – like cream rising to the top. Here are just a few examples:

This is a favorite of mine (follow the links and read the comments if you have time – it is full of great ideas and in some cased, incredibly touching.):

A short while ago I did a post entitled “Let’s Be Wonderful to Each Other” that received some lovely comments. I would like to take that one step further and ask:

What can each of us do to make a difference – either for a moment, a day, a week or longer?

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Do you have a skill that will help folks save money or better cope with the current economy? If so, head over to Margaret’s Ramblings on Friday and sign up – giving your blog link.

Those who read my blog regularly know I don’t cook (much). Trust me, this is not a fancy dish, but it is quick, easy , tasty and incredibly cheap that I had to share it.

Back in college when money was really tight, my room mate (who happened to be from Malaysia) would often make this for us.

In a pan she would put a little oil, onions (or garlic) and when that has cooked for a moment, she then added chicken cut into tiny pieces (one thigh for the two of us) and cooked until the meat is done, then added a bag of frozen veggies like beans, peas or peas and carrots and let those cook for a few minutes, then added one can of pork and beans or baked beans. Poured over rice or bread (good for the last pieces of bread or heals – because it doesn’t have to taste fresh) it is very good. Add hot peppers if you wish.

Below, in the one I made yesterday, I omitted the meat and added some leftover corn. Makes two servings at about 80 cents per serving (without the meat). Very filling.


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