Sued51's Blog

{February 11, 2012}   Inexpensive Tips for Happy Kitties

Like most pet owners, I enjoy spoiling my kitties. They have countless toys, several beds and a kitty tower. Every time I go to the pet store I am tempted to buy them something else they don’t need. I have discovered two things they really like that are relatively inexpensive, and I thought I would share it with other pet owners.

I know there are some cats that like “free” stuff like paper bags or bread ties; mine are not that easy. I have spent countless dollars on toys that they have played with once or twice, which then end up in their “toy box” covered with dust.

Through trial and error, my husband and I discovered that their favorite toy is silk string. We bought a 3-pack at a craft store for under $4.00; it is supposed to be for jewelry-making. The kitties seem to like the feel of the string between their toes and in their mouths. They go crazy when we take it out!! Be sure to tie knots in the ends of the string to keep it from fraying completely and don’t leave the string around when you are not home to supervise.

My kitties also love flannel and polartec material for bedding. The large chain pet stores charge $10 to $20 for animal blankets. Some people use old towels; animal shelters are always looking for those. My mother used to get old baby blankets at the local Thrift stores for her dachshunds, which is fairly inexpensive, but I have found it cheaper to go to the fabric store and get remnants for less than $2. The kitties love the material. When we bought our cat “tree” they didn’t use it until I put a piece of flannel on the top platform. Now one of the kitties sleeps there all the time!

Lovin' my flannel blanket

{November 3, 2011}   Foodsaver: Money Saver?

We bought our first FoodSaver two years ago.  It worked great. We stocked up our freezer for the winter with meat when it was on sale during the summer months.  We were able to buy family packs of meat, which are cheaper, or a side of beef at the local meat market and have it cut into steaks. I was also able to freeze some vegetables from the garden. We felt like it was a great purchase.  Unfortunately the first one did not even last a year.  It would no longer create a vacuum seal; it just made a lot of noise.

We called the company because it was still under warranty.  Dealing with them required a long phone call, patience and aggressive complaining.  They insisted we had done something wrong or needed to clean the rubber gasket (which can’t have a spec of anything or it cannot create a seal).  We told them we had already tried to clean the gasket (which we had), and it still wouldn’t seal.  They said they would send us a new gasket.  No…we said, it is not the gasket; it needs to be fixed.  They finally agreed to try to repair it but they wanted us to pay the shipping. After more time on the phone and more aggressive complaining they finally agreed to send us a prepaid shipping label to send them the FoodSaver.  It took a while and we had to follow up, but they finally sent us another one.

Now we have had the second one almost a year and are crossing our fingers.  The freezer is full again for the upcoming winter.

I do believe the product is worth purchasing and can save you money.  If you make the bags large enough, you can wash them and reuse them to freeze smaller pieces of food, e.g., use a bag that contained a roast the first time to freeze a steak the second time.  Best of all, no freezer burn!  The food is fresh tasting when you defrost it and cook it (within a year for meat).  Also, we have bought produce at a warehouse club and used the vacuum sealing to keep mushrooms and other produce fresh longer in the refrigerator.

I recommend purchasing one but make sure you send in your warranty card.

My friend, Julie recently posted a comment on Facebook regarding her experience dining out.  She related that in two separate instances a server gave her back only the bills of her change, and not the coins (which in one case was just 18 cents).  When she questioned the server about the coins, she was met with the response, “I didn’t think you would want it.”  Seriously???  The server in one case went on to say, “Don’t worry, I kept it, it didn’t go in the till.”  And that should be reassuring because…?  My friend promptly gave the server less tip than she had originally intended.

She asked her Facebook friends if this was a new practice.  Her story elicited comment after comment, some saying it had happened to them as well, and others expressing their outrage.  Many synonyms for “stealing” were used.  Not condoning it, but trying to understand it, my comment was that I thought this behavior was brought on by the practice of servers pooling and sharing tips, resulting in some being tempted to skim a little off the top for themselves.  I hate to clue these people in, but with the exception of large groups, a tip is not an entitlement, but a reward for good service, to be bestowed on the server at the discretion of the customer.

I told the story to someone I know who was a server for many years.  She was incensed and said, “It is absolutely stealing.”  She went on to talk about the elephant in the room: that the latest generation seems to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to tips: they do not recognize that tips are EARNED with good service.

My husband and I recently had a poor service experience while eating at the bar of a local restaurant.  A second server took much better care of us than the first.  My husband’s response was to ask her if they shared tips.  She said, “Yes,” and his reply was, “I’m sorry…that’s too bad.”  He praised her service but left no tip because the first server (a 20ish young man) had simply stood around doing nothing but ignoring us, and then disappeared.

My friend’s story ended with phone calls to the managers of the restaurants involved, producing shocked reactions from the managers, who said they did not condone the practice.  But do they actively discourage it?  How are these servers getting away with this?  Because patrons don’t speak up??  In a bad economy, consumers choose carefully when they go out; it’s a treat, no longer a habit, to go to a restaurant.  Customers, speak up if this happens to you!

A veterinarian told us that treats for our cats should not be those packaged as such, but a piece of chicken or fish.  But our cats go crazy for some of the packaged treats (especially the ones called “Temptations”), so it is hard to adhere to that advice.  What would the kitties pick if they could?

I remember as a child what an exciting treat it was to go out for an ice cream cone or sundae.  I live near a couple of dairy farm ice cream stands that have lines all spring and summer long, but I’m never in them.  I rarely eat ice cream anymore, and if I do, I eat it at home.  It just seems too expensive to go out to get it served to me when I can buy it at the store and eat it at home.  When did that treat change for me?

Economic and/or health concerns have changed my idea of what a “treat” is for me.  There are some things I miss and some things I don’t.  When I was young I worked at a movie theater.  I ate popcorn just about every day.  When I stopped doing that, I went through a phase when I was working in an office and was eating microwave popcorn several times a week, resulting in a lot of extra pounds.  I figured out it was the popcorn and stopped eating it.  Now every once in a while I drag out my popcorn popper at home and make popcorn.  I now consider it a treat.  Similarly, because donuts are so bad for me, I almost never eat them.

I don’t seem to have as much time as I used to just to read a book or magazine without feeling guilty.  These days I concentrate most of my energies on saving money (i.e., cutting coupons, shopping for deals, making food from scratch, etc.).  So, to take some time to quietly read a book or magazine nowadays is a definite treat.

I would like to say the change in my thinking is an age-related phenomenon, but the other day I met some elderly people who were making an event out of going to one of the dairy farm ice cream stands.  My parents do the same.  So why isn’t it a treat to me?  Mindset – Mine is set in practical/economical mode right now, which doesn’t include going out for an ice cream sundae.

To go back to what the veterinarian said, the best treat should not be something unhealthy for you.  But doesn’t the definition of “treat” include “fun” combined with a certain amount of “guilt”? My treats these days are virtually guiltfree and the fun factor is much diminished.  So…are they still “treats”?

{April 7, 2010}   Food Experiments

My husband calls them my experiments: tops of carrots in dishes of water; split avocado pits in a bowl; a pot of soil with a rotted mini-pumpkin.  I have to admit, he is pretty patient with these oddities. Some of them grow, some do not.  It is part of my quest to find ways to waste less and make the most of things.  It springs from a desire and a drive to make things happen when I feel powerless without money to spend.

In 2008, I bought a mini-pumpkin for $1.00 to decorate my desk at Halloween.  I threw it in a pot after Halloween.  In the spring of 2009, I had many pumpkin plants coming up in the pot.  I transplanted some into the ground and left a couple in the pot.  I ended up getting enough mini-pumpkins to bring them into work to give to coworkers.  I actually brought a few mini-pumpkins back to Massachusetts from Knoxville with me.  Once again, I put the rotted pumpkins in a pot; again, I have quite a few pumpkin plants coming up.  Some plants are easy to root.

My father used to have tomatoes, cantaloupes and other plants sprouting in his compost pile and he would transplant them into the garden.  He called them the “volunteers”.  I have had my own volunteers over the years if I let some rotted tomatoes fall in the garden; I’ve also had cilantro come up the year after I let some go to seed.

I found some old peas in the garage that I had dried for seeds a few years ago.  I put them in the garden just to experiment.  I figured if we ended up with a frost after all this early spring weather, no loss.  I don’t know yet if they will sprout, but I did notice when I smoothed the garden over (because it showed signs of being dug in by some creature likely a chipmunk) that the peas had expanded the way they do before they sprout.

I really enjoy my experiments and I think just about anything is worth a try, especially if it is something that is going to get thrown out anyway.

I read this book a couple of years ago when I was still working full-time and stressed to the max.  I can’t recommend it enough, especially in these economic times.  Wouldn’t we all like to know how much is “enough” and come to terms with what we need and want out of life?  See the summary on Amazon: .

The book is set up as a 9-step program to help the reader examine his or her relationship with money and gain an understanding of what people are actually paid for their work.  My copy is filled with highlighting; I could SO relate to everything I was reading.  I know some might think of it as socialism…maybe taken to an extreme, it is, but I believe everyone can take something away from this book.  If you do not want to explore the spiritual side of it, then in the words of the author, “The program without the inner dimension is just strategies for saving a whack of money but cutting out unnecessary spending and keeping your eye on the goal of financial independence.”  That might be helpful for some.  One thing I did after reading it was to save up my bottle redemption money and buy savings bonds.

What I find really amazing is that the book was written in the ‘70s, yet people are still reading it.  One of the authors is deceased, but the other original author has a new coauthor.  There are still seminars being given and groups being formed by those who follow its principles.

Check it out; if you are willing to open your mind, you will learn something: .

et cetera
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