Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The economy

Good news this morning!

US bank news lifts world shares. Good ol' JP Morgan, huh?

And so the roller coaster pummels on. Up and down and around and up and down again. Will stocks "rally"? Will housing regain its footing? Will we survive after all? Or will it all come crashing down tomorrow morning?

Nobody has the answer, don't let them fool you. There are "educated guesses," sure, but they're still guesses.

No one wants a serious recession. Or do they?

The media has got hold of this like a hungry stray with a meaty bone and they're not going to let it go that easily. The more they can fan the flame of sensationalism, the happier they are. After all, that pays their bills.

I'm not really sure I have a point to make. I do believe that if we could possibly let the economy "do its thing," it would slowly stabilize itself. It's kind of like one of those wobbly dolls. If you leave it alone long enough, it will eventually stop wobbling and stand upright. If you poke at it or slap it a little, it will wobble wildly for a long time.

Serious thoughts this morning, but let's face it. We have lives to carry on. Whether the price of flour doubles or not, we have to eat. Whether gasoline flows like pure gold or not, we have to get to work. We'll weather it somehow, media or not, big players or not. The common man is where the buck stops.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mike Killian

The somewhat elusive Mike Killian has an interesting web site called "Learning Credit and Debt Management. So who's Mike Killian? He's the former Credit/Debt Guide at About.com and he's still writing and still giving great advice. Mike and I traded traffic at About because our topics worked together so well. They still do, and I'm glad to see his material is still available.

For instance, Senior Debt: A Growing Problem tackles the sad circumstances many senior citizens face on a limited income.

Credit Card's Dirty Little Secrets is written in Mike's inimitable style and a must read if you have any dealings at all with credit cards.

In these times of economic uncertainty, it's critical to know how to handle credit and debt efficiently. Mike does know and he's willing to share.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Old Towels and Terrycloth

A couple of threads on the Dollar Stretcher forums, Save those towels and Rugs reminded me of a short list I put together some time ago about what to do with old towels or terrycloth from garments. You'll need to hem any terrycloth unless it's to be completely covered by another cloth, as it would be in padding for a potholder.

All of this assumes that you cut away the part that's worn too much, leaving just the good part.

  • Use old towels for padding to make footstools from those big popcorn tins. Cut circles to fit the top of the tin with a couple of inches to spare. Glue these onto the top of the lid and tie the edges down firmly, but leave it where you can open and close the lid easily. Cover the whole thing with material, leather or plastic.
  • They make great pet bedding as they can be washed easily.
  • Cut insoles from old towels to help keep your feet warm in boots or shoes. Make them several thicknesses and sew the edges together.
  • Several towels, sewn together to make one larger piece, makes a lightweight filler for hand made quilts.
  • Make houseslippers, using instructions for moccasins. There are good instructions on eHow - just use old towels instead of leather and a needle and thread or your sewing machine instead of lacing and lacing needle. (Skip the awl, too.) If you add an extra sole to the outside of the slipper, you can take it off when it becomes worn and replace it without having to make another pair.
  • I used an old towel duct taped to the edge of my desk as a wrist rest for quite some time until I found a freebie one.
  • Besides padding for potholders, make mats to set hot pots and pans on the same way.
  • Hemmed terrycloth makes excellent dishcloths.
  • On the same note, make washcloths from them. You can use a close zigzag stitch to edge them, or just make a narrow hem.
  • Make a patchwork tablecloth, throw or robe from them.
  • Cut a piece about the size of a washcloth and hem it, then dampen it with liquid fabric softener and throw in the dryer with your clothes. Use this instead of dryer sheets and you'll save money.
  • Make a rice or wheat heat pad by sewing an old hand towel up three sides, filling it with wheat or rice and then sew the fourth side. Microwave to heat and use as you would a hot water bottle or electric heating pad. The texture of terrycloth makes it soothing, but if you like, you can cover it with another cloth to keep the terrycloth clean.
  • Make a dust mitt to get around those odd corners and spaces. Draw around your hand on a piece of newspaper, adding a three to four inch cuff, then draw and cut the pattern about an inch to an inch and a half larger. Fold an old towel over, and using the newspaper pattern, cut both sides of the mitt at once. Hem the cuff end, then sew around the mitt.

I'm sure there are other frugal uses I haven't thought about. If you know of one, post it to one of the threads on the forums so others can benefit!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Container gardening

I've been asked about container gardening, so I'll try to give a little advice about it. I'm not the world's guru on it by any means, but I've had a little experience, frugal wise.

First, the containers. You can use anything from a beer keg to a mop bucket, but you probably want something that doesn't look too awful if you're going to have it where you'll (and your neighbors and company) will see it all summer. Think of containers you already have. Beer kegs may go in your yard very well! Five gallon buckets can be painted so they look a little classier. Large flower pots, storage containers, toy boxes or even the old bathtub will work, so make your choice. The only thing you need to remember is that a container needs drainage. If you don't poke holes in it (A bathtub has a drain hole that works fine), water will collect on the bottom and create problems for your plants. Fungi grows well in that condition and may kill the roots.

Put a layer of small rocks or crockery fragments, broken cement, etc., in the bottom of a container, then fill it with good soil mixed with compost. You can buy potting soil, but that becomes expensive, especially if you're using large pots.

A list of plants to grow in containers can be almost endless. For larger plants like tomatoes, the smaller varieties seem to do better. Almost any vegetable can be found in a compact size plant - look for those when you buy your seed or plants. Squash is hard to grow in containers, but even then, it can be done.

Things like lettuce, spinach and radishes grow very well in containers. (They'll even grow inside with enough light.)

One very good reason to container garden, besides not having enough yard space for a traditional garden, is that you can move your plants to take advantage of better locations that may change over the season, or even over a day in very hot or wet weather.

Large containers can be heavy, so think about putting the largest ones on wheels! Set them on a child's wagon or any set of old wheels you may have around.

You'll need to water much more often, probably once a day for most things, and you'll need to fertilize often, too. Natural fertilizers are much preferred in container gardening, especially. Add compost, well rotted manure, coffee grounds, etc., to the top layer of soil now and then and mix in an inch or two if you can without disturbing the plant. Remember that the plant's resources are limited by the container size and be prepared to make up for that.

Above all, experiment! Find unique containers, plant seeds you've never tried before. Keep records of what you do and learn from them for next year!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Broken digital camera

I dropped my camera and the shutter button quit working. That's why I haven't posted any pictures here lately. I haven't found anyone to fix it yet and don't know how much it will cost. Penny pinching means it can sometimes take awhile to get things fixed.

I'm not going to just drop it off at any shop that claims to be able to fix digital cameras. You know why.

Anyway, camera or not, I saw finches at the bird feeder a couple of days ago. That means spring is springing in Colorado - it's early for house finches here.

That means it's time to get busy starting seeds and getting the gardens ready for another year. If I don't have a camera, you'll just have to imagine my wonderful, enormous crops of succulent, fresh vegetables... just like I am right now. ;)

Who knows? Maybe I will have an abundant and delicious harvest!