Readers' Tips

Tween Girl's Birthday Party Ideas

For my daughter's birthday, we had a salon party. We soaked tootsies and hands and I did manicures and pedicures. The girls loved being pampered and getting to choose their polish color. (I have a lot of polish.) You can get polish from a dollar store and let them keep it otherwise.

The cake was a big hit too. I made several layers as the "nail polish bottle" and then a pan of cupcakes (6) for the stem of the polish bottle. I used a skewer to hold the cupcakes together on top. Then I frosted the cake pink and the stem or wand part of the cake black. I also piped "OPI" on it. Because there was room in the budget, I made little bags up for each girl (from dollar store) with a nail file, buffer, polish, etc.

editor's note: Visit here for more tween girl birthday party ideas.

Garden Problems?

Your local County (Cooperative) Extension office has trained volunteers who offer advice on all types of plant problems. This is a free service. Our local Extension Office offers many free and low-cost classes on things such as how to raise vegetables, how to plant and prune fruit trees, composting, green houses, raised bed gardening, food safety, and diabetes. Check your local county website for location and contact number. Extension Offices are a wealth of research based information for the residents of your county. Almost every county in the United States has one. Get to know yours today.
Debbie F.

Eliminating Musty Smells

My brother used to work for a tannery and they used fresh coffee grounds to eradicate smells in the trucks that hauled hides. They would open the truck doors and pour out a fresh can of coffee and then lock the doors. In a day or so, they would sweep out the grounds and no smell would remain.

We began using that idea as a military family moving frequently and having our household goods periodically put in storage. After cleaning out our refrigerators and freezers prior to a move and going into storage, we would be sure each was thoroughly dried inside. Then I would take about one to two cups of fresh coffee grounds and place them in a brown paper bag (lunch size) and staple it shut. One bag would be put on a refrigerator shelf and another in the freezer compartment. Our things were often in storage for a month, and when delivered, we would always be able to open the appliance doors, take out the coffee grounds bags, close doors, and plug the appliances in. There was never that stale "refrigerator" musty smell, but always a clean, fresh smell.

We have shared this with many friends through the years, and all have had the same positive reaction we did.

Additional TDS Resource: More on eliminating musty smells

Before I Checkout

After I fill my grocery cart, I take a quick break before heading to the checkout counter. I go to a quiet spot and look at everything in my cart. I weed out any impulse buys that seemed so right just a few minutes ago. I've found that this simple task has reduced my grocery bill, reduced my waistline, and also reduced the amount of food that's wasted in my home!

Softer Skin

Recently a friend introduced me to a "sugar scrub" from a store that's normally too expensive for me. It is wonderful for softening hands, elbows, and knees, but it's expensive! I found if I mix enough granulated sugar with baby oil to make a thick paste, I have the same thing. It works just as well as the expensive stuff!

More Affordable Soy Milk

Soy milk and almond milk are expensive to buy and can be made for a fraction of the cost at home. I got a reconditioned soy milk maker on eBay for a reasonable price. I ordered soy beans by the pound from a soy bean farm's website and store them in a large plastic bucket with lid. I soak a half cup of soy beans in water for several hours or overnight, and the beans double in volume. The soy milk maker's container has a labeled "add water" mark and a wire mesh container that holds the soy beans. The soy milk maker is electric. It grinds the soy beans, cooks the soy milk for appropriate sterilization, and does all this in about 15 minutes. I pour the finished soy milk into a pitcher for refrigeration and then add some vanilla favoring and sugar to the mixture for added taste.

I've been doing this for 12 years or more as I'm on my second soy milk maker and I have saved a bundle over buying commercial soy milk. Also by making it myself, I know and control exactly what goes into it with no harmful additives. Homemade soy milk tastes better to me than commercial and is suitable for coffee, cereal, smoothies, etc. There are added benefits to drinking soy milk. It lowers cholesterol and helps with hot flashes.

Reducing Food Waste

I recently discovered a way to save on food waste. Packages, boxes, and bags of food come with expiration dates stamped or written in very small letters and are often not very noticeable. I started taking a black permanent marker, and on boxes and bags of food items in my pantry, I write the month, day, and year of an expiration date in large letters and numbers. This is much more visible, and I plan meals according to which items are expiring soon.


A recent post listed four ideas for using old bed sheets. I recently repurposed an old bed sheet and a few old spools of thread to make about 40 cloth napkins. I have less waste, and I no longer have to buy paper napkins. It's a win, win situation!

Backyard Play Structures

I saw a wonderful idea in a book from my local library. They installed two 6x6 posts that were buried below the frost line and went straight up about eight feet. They were about six to eight feet apart. Three or four holes were drilled at parallel distances up the pole, starting about two feet up from the ground. A heavy nylon rope was then strung to form horizontal lines between the poles. Another rope was spiraled around the front of the parallel ropes and tied wherever two ropes met forming a spider web climbing area. Another post was secured across the top of the two poles, overhanging on one side far enough for a swing. Perfect jungle gym and swing for the price of three posts and some rope. Ensure that the posts are secure and all knots are tight for safety sake.

Additional TDS Resource: More on inexpensive backyard play structures

Add Some Counter Space

Having a tiny kitchen with little counter space, I decided to purchase a cutting board the same size to fit an open drawer. I put it atop the drawer that I don't need the contents often and secured it.
Shirley M. in Fenton, MI

Stainless Shine

Pour lemon juice into a spray bottle. Use it with a sprinkling of baking soda to shine stainless steel sinks.

Just a Squirt for Softer Clothes

I recently started using a squirt bottle of vinegar and water to add to my clothes before I dry them. I bought a new washer without a place to use fabric softener and the washer lid locks when on. I just squirt the clothes a few times and dry. I have not noticed any static on my clothes.
Nancy G.

Additional TDS Resource: More on how to save on fabric softeners

Surprising Outdoor Cleaner

The other day, I was outside looking at the dirt and pollen (and, yes, even algae) buildup on my white deck railings. I decided to try something that removes "stuck on" food from my pans.

I mixed just a tiny bit of liquid, automatic dishwasher detergent in warm water and sprayed the deck railings. It didn't have to stay on there long before I was able to just wipe them clean. I then sprayed some resin chairs that had set out over the entire winter and the mixture broke through the grime on these as well. It worked better than any store bought cleaner I had ever tried!
Sandra S. in Cross Lanes, WV

A New Lawn

We built our home and had to figure out how to get some grass in our back and side yards, as only the front yard was sodded for us. We tried everything (hydromulch and seeding) but ended up sodding because the $600 we spent on the other two failures was not worth it at all. The key to hydromulching or seeding is watering about six times daily, especially in the warm-weather climates. If you can't commit to this watering schedule, then sod is for you. We checker-board sodded with Bermuda, and within three months with daily watering, it had completely filled in, and it cost about half as much as full sodding. Make sure the threat of frost is over, and don't fertilize for at least three months. Sod will grow easily. Just throw it out. If only we'd chosen this option first!

Additional TDS Resource: More on new grass

Affordable Wedding Dress

Can't afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a new wedding dress? Look at bridesmaid dresses. I found a beautiful, perfect dress that I might have overlooked since it was purple. I found that it came in white, ivory, and cream. The cost was a fraction of what bridal dresses cost.

Compost Help

With the garden season starting, your thoughts may turn to your compost. Call your local coffee shop to see if you can get coffee grounds for your garden. Most are happy to give the grounds to you in the interest of recycling.

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