Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Towel Fuzz

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Works for Me Wednesday is a “backwards edition” this week, wherein we can ask a question for all the experienced experts out there.

My question is this: some of the new towels I buy sprout fuzz balls over over themselves and everything else in the washer the first several times they’re washed. Sometimes after repeated washing and drying it finally stops doing so, but some of them just keep on. I don’t know if it has to do with the quality of the towel: I’ve gotten them at three different places, and it hasn’t seemed to have made a difference. Any ideas?

Works For Me Wednesday is now hosted at We Are That Family.

Works For Me Wednesday: Couponing once a month

I have a love/hate relationship with coupons. Well…mostly hate. It seems so tedious to cut them out and file them, then most of the time I forget them before heading out to the store. So from time to time I sort through my coupons and toss out the expired ones and cringe thinking of the money I could have saved.

I was going through this ritual a week or so before the end of December when I decided to pull out all the coupons expiring at the end of the year to see if I could use them. I found many for grocery items I regularly bought, some $1 or more off, some for goods that I didn’t need yet but would use soon. I decided this time to shop around the coupons. I ended up saving $12 at Wal-Mart (where we usually but toiletries anyway because they’re cheaper and where I used the $1 off coupons that the grocery store would not double) and about that much again at the grocery store (which doubled coupons under a certain amount). That certainly provided motivation!

I decided that might be the better way to use coupons: instead of trying to deal with them every week and failing, it might be easier to go through them once a month and pull out all the ones expiring within the next month, and shop for those items whether I need them just then or not.

There is a limit to this as we don’t have a lot of storage space. Because of that I still avoid coupons where you have to buy an abundance of one product, and I avoid those requiring a complicated assortment as just taking too much time. But overall this method works much better for me than what I had been doing.

For an abundance of workable tips, visit Rocks In My Dryer most Wednesdays.

WFMW: Geeky Gifts For Guys

I have a husband and three sons. They’re not sports fans or hunters or golfers, but they do like technology and gadgets. For anything really technical I need to get the exact name, product code, etc., but these are some “other” gifts they’ve enjoyed receiving over the years.

1. USB Rocket Launcher plugs into the USB port of your computer. My husband has one on his desk at work that coworkers like to launch.

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2. USB Doomsday Device Hub

USB Doomsday Device

It has a series of buttons and levers, and people just can’t resist pushing and flipping them to see what will happen, despite the dire warnings. Of course, Jeremy and Jesse wanted to try it out.

3. USB Beverage Cooler

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When you don’t want to walk all the way to the kitchen for a cold drink. It holds one drink can.

4. Duct Tape wallet. Because guys can make ANYTHING out of duct tape.

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5. Digital Temperature Fork. This is handy if your guy grills: a fork with a meat thermometer built in. Ours came with a set of grilling utensils. We got this from a department store (J. C. Penney’s, I think) one Father’s Day, but I ran a search for it and found several sources online.

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6. Digital Bank

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Ours, which we found in the men’s department at a store in the mall, is much plainer than this version from SlashGear, but there are several online. It keeps count of the total of the coins as you drop them in. I don’t know how you adjust it if you remove any — maybe that’s motivation not to!

7. Anything from Scottevest, a line of clothing designed to accommodate the wires and cords from electronic devices and all sorts of pockets and compartments. A couple of my guys had their jackets on their “wish list” for years, but they were kind of expensive, so all we ever got was this hat (you can click on the video link there to see where the compartments are).

8. Many of the above items can be found at ThinkGeek, the name of which speaks for itself. Lots of…interesting stuff there. It’s mostly a family-friendly site, but, as with all external links, use caution and discretion.

You can find a plethora of workable tips at Rocks In My Dryer each Wednesday.

Works For Me Wednesday: Leftover Rice

I haven’t done a WFMW in a while, having run through my whole repertoire of tips long ago. But when I was making lunch today I realized I had an unshared tip I could share.

The condensed version: leftover rice can be frozen.

What would you use frozen rice in? Well, I often make canned soups for lunch in the winter when I am eating alone, but most of them are too soupy for me, so I like to add a bit of leftover rice or some frozen corn or leftover tomato soup, etc. I especially like adding the leftover rice but didn’t always have any on hand when making soup. And when I had leftover rice on hand it often grew green fuzzies in the frig because I had other plans for lunch. So once I put some leftover rice in a plastic zipped bag in the freezer, then took it out and microwaved it about 20-30 seconds, just enough to loosen it up from the solidness it freezes into, added it into my soup, and it worked beautifully.

Now I often make a little extra rice in order to have some leftover to freeze.

You could also mix it in a bit of leftover casserole or cover it with a little leftover gravy.

You can find Works For Me Wednesday most weeks at Rocks In My Dryer.

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Go ahead and get in the picture

Have you ever been trying to take a group picture only to have one of the subjects strongly protest, put a hand in front of her face, or run off? Most people do this because they feel self-conscious. But what they don’t realize is that they are calling even more attention to themselves when they protest or run or make disparaging remarks about themselves. And sometimes they even mar what was intended to be a commemoration of a memorable occasion.

I know sometimes when we see ourselves in a picture, we’re shocked. The image differs from what we see in the mirror. All our flaws seem seem to stand out. But everyone has already been seeing us that way and they still love us. 🙂 And they want the picture because they like you and want to remember you in that way.

After all, when you look over pictures of relatives or special occasions, you’re not looking for super-model subjects, right? You’re looking at people who mean something to you and remembering the good time you had together. That is all that the people who want your picture desire as well.

So go ahead and get in the picture and smile. 😀

That works for everyone.

For more tips each Wednesday see Rocks In My Dryer.

Works For Me Wednesday: Packing for camp

This isn’t going to be a full-fledged how-to-pack-for-camp post, but just a couple of tips I’ve learned the hard way.

1. When my middle son first started going to camp, he would consistently lose or leave behind a few things, and they would consistently be new things I had bought just before camp. I got so frustrated — until I realized that, because they were new, he didn’t recognize them as his when he was packing things up. So it might be helpful to buy their new swimming trunks or shorts or whatever they need a little while before camp so they can wear them and get used to them.

2. As I unpacked their suitcases after camp, I would find unused items. When I asked about them, they would reply, “Oh! I didn’t know that was in there.”

It took me years to learn in general that the best way to teach a child how to do something is to have them do it with you first, then to have them do it under your supervision, and then to do it alone to be inspected by you later. Somehow it didn’t dawn on me to apply this to packing until my oldest sons were teens and said they would rather pack for themselves so they would know what they had and where it was. That makes sense: if someone else packed for me I would waste time rifling through looking for what I needed rather than knowing just where to look.

So with with my youngest son this year, we discussed what he needed to take; I helped him gather items; he packed while I watched; I gave him a tip about using socks to stuff into corners or spots between stacks; before he left I double checked with him about whether he had gotten certain items. It was much less work and stress for me, plus he has a handle on what he has with him and is learning a life skill. He even engaged in some decision-making about what to leave behind and what he could use twice (so as not to need a replacement) when his suitcase was getting too full.

Works for me! You can see other workable tips every Wednesday at Rocks In My Dryer.

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Claiming donated items on tax returns

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Did you know that if you itemize your tax deductions, you can claim donations to charities?

To do so, you need to make a specific list of what you are donating and get a receipt when you donate the items. When we have done it, we have simply listed “5 boys’ shirts; 6 men’s slacks,” etc. The recipient does not assign a value to what you have donated: you must do that. There are guides for how much you can claim for donated items at the Goodwill site and the Salvation Army site. I imagine you can use the same guidelines if you donate to a local rescue shelter or children’s home.

For example, you can claim $2-12 for a shirt, $2-10 for pants, $3-20 for a dress, depending on the condition. That’s more than you could make at a yard sale on those items. Household items seem to have about the same value that you might get at a yard sale, maybe a little more (lamp: $4-12; books: $.75-1.50; chair: $5-15).

There is a much more detailed document titled “Determining the Value of Donated Property” on the IRS web site at which covers multitudes of types of donated items. It also warns that there can be a 20-40% penalty if it is discovered that you overstated the value of a donated item. The IRS document on Charitable Contributions details what types of organizations and donations qualify for deductions.

The advantage to a yard sale is that you can get the cash immediately for your items. But if you don’t need the money immediately, you might make out better donating the items and claiming the deductions. Both efforts take time: the yard sale takes time to price things, advertise, and spend a morning actually selling and then packing up what’s left over. Donating to charitable organizations takes time to make lists and assign values and haul your stuff to the donation site (although some charities will pick up items) and then keep up with the paperwork until tax time. It just depends on which method you find less frustrating and confusing.

Of course, if you have things you need to get rid of and you don’t itemize your deductions and don’t want to have a yard sale, you can just take them to a donation site and drop them off without dealing with itemizing or receipts. Or you can donate them to a charity that is holding a yard sale. Some things might do well on eBay, but to list things item by item would be a bit tedious if you have a lot, and I don’t know that common everyday household items would do well. Some items, particularly children’s clothes and women’s clothes, might do well at a consignment store. Mrs. Wilt had a great post about that this week.

See Rocks In My Dryer to find more great tips or share your own with us.

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Eye-level recipe holder

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WFMW is being guest-hosted by Melanie at Don’t Try This At Home this week since Shannon is in Uganda.

I don’t have a lot of counter space in my kitchen. When I am making something with a recipe, it’s hard to find a place where I can put it and see it easily while stirring and mixing, etc. Plus I am needing to get things closer to my eyes to see them these days. 🙂

I saw this idea in a magazine (I don’t remember which one — I think it was Taste of Home or one of its spin-offs). I tried it tonight and it worked great.

Recipe hanger

You just take a pants or skirt hanger and clip the magazine into it, then hang it from the knob of an upper cabinet. This would also work if you have recipes in a notebook and can remove a page at a time.

It would probably also work for recipe cards except that if they are clipped from one side it would probably lean: perhaps another card could be clipped to the other side to balance it, or if you had a similar hanger that was child-sized, that would work for cards or smaller recipes. They used to make little hangers with a single clothespin-type clip for hanging nylons after washing: that would work great if I could find one. I used to have several of them when I wasn’t using them: I’ll have to check through junk drawers to see if I kept any.

But I was thrilled: I loved having the recipe at almost eye level.

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Online shopping edition

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The first WFMW of the month is often a themed one, and this time Shannon has asked for our favorite online shops.

I love online shopping! I probably did at least half of my Christmas shopping online.

Probably everyone knows about Amazon.com. I buy a lot of books and DVDs there, and I’ve rejoiced to find used out-of-print books there, too. But I have also bought a tent and toys and I don’t know what all else.

I buy many Christian books at my local Christian bookstore — I do want to support the local economy — but what I can’t find there I look for at Christianbook.com. I’ve also bought some nice plaques there.

If you love crafts, the place to go is Etsy, where individual crafters sell their handmade items in a wide variety of categories.

I buy most of my clothes online through Woman Within (formerly the Lane Bryant catalog), Roaman’s, Just My Size, and Jessica London (all of those are plus-size stores) as well as Blair and Bedford Fair. I also occasionally buy clothes at Coldwater Creek and Silhouettes, but generally they are beyond what I like to spend. Many department stores also have online shops.

Here is a listing of other frequented places:

Current: stationery, gifts.

Oriental Trading Company: Birthday party items, also good for classrooms and VBS.

ThinkGeek: all sorts of nerdy t-shirts and gadgets like USB “toys” (like this rocket launcher).

Fabric.com: I found the Waverly fabric I wanted for my family room curtains for less, plus I found the perfect shade, which local stores didn’t carry. For many, if not all, of their fabrics, you can order a swatch first to see how you like it.

Terry’s Village: cute home decor stuff.

Lillian Vernon: I’ve bought storage-related things that that I couldn’t find locally, but they have gift items, home decor, toys, personalized items, and a number of other things.

Domestications: sheets, bedspreads and comforters, table linens.

Nanalulu’s Linen Closet: Beautiful tables linens and handkerchiefs.

Graphics for my blog or ladies’ ministry newsletter: CLM Graphics and Graphic Garden (both of these sites do have a few free graphic downloads as well).

That’s all I can think of for the moment! I did want to add, though, that many of these stores can be reached through Igive.com, which is an organization that coordinates charitable giving with shopping: a portion of each sale goes to the charity of your choice. I try to remember to start any online shopping there (they have an a-z listing of the stores who work with them as well as a “mall” where you can peruse by the type of shop you are looking for). If you don’t have a charity of choice that you support, may I suggest the Transverse Myelitis Association.

Check our more of the best of online shopping at Rocks In My Dryer.

Works-For-Me Wednesday: Wreath storage

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I have a few wreaths that I like to change around through the year. The autumn and Christmas ones are stored with other seasonal decorations in the attic, but I didn’t want to have to go up there every time I wanted to change just a wreath. So I began to store them on the inside of a storage closet door in the living room.

Wreath storage

The front door is just opposite and parallel to the closet door, so it’s really convenient to switch them as desired. Works for me!

As with most Wednesdays, you can find a load of great tried-and-true tips at Shannon’s.