Home & Garden

3 New or Noteworthy Things with Freecycle.org: Growth, Mobile Access, and Browser Plug-ins

Posted on June 7, 2009. Filed under: Home & Garden, San Francisco Bay Area, Software & Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

freecycle_logo

Freecycle.org is a “globally local”  online network helping millions of people to recycle and keep stuff out of landfills. This nonprofit gifting movement enables individuals to gift items in their local communities rather than to throw them away.  If you’re not already familiar with Freecycle™,  I wrote an article back in July, 2008 about how Freecycle works.  Here is a very cute Flash slide show about using Freecycle (click on a slide to advance it)

So what’s new and noteworthy with Freecycle.org?

1. The Growth of Freecycle

According to Freecycle.org, it has now  expanded to more than  6.5 million members and over 10,000 volunteers who devote their time and energy to this worthy cause.  Freecycle creates a circle of giving in each of its local communities around the world.  Members are gifting over 20,000 items every day.

The Freecycle Network™ is currently growing at the rate of over 45,000 new members each and every week.  In 2007, Yahoo first noted that Freecycle became the third most searched environmental term on the planet just behind “global warming” and “recycling” and ahead of “earth.”

2.  Freecycle.org Has Gone Mobile – “No Computer Required”

In May,  2009 Freecycle announced it is now available to use on mobile devices following an agreement with Nokia, the world’s largest mobile device company.  The move expands the global gifting network beyond the constraints of the computer to
people’s mobile phones in over 85 countries around the world.

Founder, Deron Beal states that, “The goal is to make it easier to give an item away than to throw the item away, thus keeping good stuff out of landfills and helping Mother Nature. Nokia’s design and support of our new mobile phone functionality makes it easier than ever – no computer required!”

You can access Freecycle’s mobile website simply by typing mobile.freecycle.org into your mobile phone’s browser.

3.  Freecycle Now Has Support for Browser Plug-ins

These plugins are free software which make it easier to use Freecycle groups and get your messages right the first time. There are two versions of this plugin for the two most common browsers: Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. You can find out more and download the plug-ins on the wiki page here.

The project is a collaboration between Edward and Nigel Mundy,
moderator on Eastbourne Freecycle.

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Print Your Free 60-day BJ’s Club Shopping Pass

Posted on April 14, 2009. Filed under: Bargain Shopping, Home & Garden | Tags: , , |

Print your FREE 60-DAY Shopping Pass and bring it to your nearest BJ’s Club today.
Hurry — pass must be activated by 7/6/09 and is good for new members only.

Locations in CT, DE, FL, GA, VA, RI, MA, MD, ME, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH & PA

Click here to locate the BJs wholesale club nearest you

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Flattery will get you freebies in the mail

Posted on March 11, 2009. Filed under: Bargain Shopping, Cooking and Eating, Home & Garden, Pets, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

I can attest to the strategy in this news article working and I use it.  I  received multiple $1.00 off coupons for one complimentary email to customer service about  Aidell’s mango-ginger sausages,  free cat food, and Snapple coupons for raving about their diet Cran-Raspberry juice.  Making an organized list of products and 800 phone numbers to be proactive  is a great idea!

— The BudgetMaven

Flattery can get you freebies in the mail

By Spencer Soper
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Posted: 03/03/2009 11:44:44 AM PST

Do you like free stuff?

Of course you do.

Well, we have a great tip on how to get free stuff, or at least some coupons.

Here’s the tip from a closet coupon collector:

“People buy things at the grocery store and if you have a constructive comment to the people who make the food or the product, call the toll-free number on the product and compliment them,” our tipster said. “Typically, the companies will give you coupons or a complimentary. You really get some nice coupons in the mail.”

This is brilliant. Especially since the people answering the phones are surely inundated with calls from angry people complaining that, “there was a severed finger in my canned peaches,” or “the wrapper said 1,000 sheets of toilet paper and I only counted 999½.”

So we rummaged through the fridge and the cupboards, wrote down some phone numbers, and made some calls.

Think of something constructive to tell them. For instance, we told the makers of Irish Spring soap to change the product’s name to “Global Spring,” to gain broader ethnic appeal.

A few days later the coupons started showing up in the mailbox. A free pack of Irish Spring soap worth up to $2.99. Thirty cents off Krusteaz pancake mix. A buck off two containers of Hellman’s mayonnaise.

We got a total of $25.94 in coupons. Even better, they’re for products we actually use.

Don’t be a glutton and call every day. But if you followed this tip once a year for 20 years and used all the coupons, you’d save more than $500.

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Article: Slash Your Property Tax

Posted on March 5, 2009. Filed under: Home & Garden, Personal Finance | Tags: , , |

Slash Your Property Tax

By Lisa Scherzer
Feb 25th, 2009

From Broward County, Fla., to Flint , Mich., homeowners might be facing exorbitant hikes in property taxes.  In one of the more extreme cases, residents of West New York, N.J., are fighting a planned 27% bump in their property tax rates.

Squeezed by foreclosures and falling revenues, many local governments are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls. To fill some of the gap, more municipalities will have to raise property taxes, says Sharon McCabe, associate director of the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate at the University of Wisconsin.

While homeowners would have a hard time fighting the local government on such increases (although West New York residents are certainly trying to), there are ways to reduce the impact of the hit.

Like most homeowners, your property’s value has most likely fallen off a cliff over the past year. If your assessment is based on a higher valuation from several years ago, it’s probably time to get it reassessed, says Stuart Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for Real Estate at UCLA. The end result could save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Here are a few things to consider before seeking a reassessment:

1.  Understand Your Town’s Methodology
2.  You Can Do it Yourself
3.  Check for Mistakes
4.  Check Out Similar Sales

For the complete article, click here

Appeals
If your home has declined below its assessed value, you can apply for a tax reduction.  By law the county assessor must check to see if you are correct and even if the assessor denies your application, you can file an appeal.
Specific to the state of California, the California State of Equalization web site has some videos to walk you through the process of preparing and presenting your Assessment Appeal of your Property Tax Assessment at your county Board of Equalization or Assessment Appeals Board.

The video segments viewable on the link above include:

Introduction

Decline In Market Value

Base Year Value

Reassessment After Calamity

Escape Assessment And Roll Changes

Filling Out The Application

Preparing For Your Hearing

Your Hearing

Credits

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AP Article: Homeowners’ Rallying Cry: Produce the note

Posted on February 18, 2009. Filed under: Home & Garden, Personal Finance | Tags: , , |

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (AP) — Kathy Lovelace lost her job and was about to lose her house, too. But then she made a seemingly simple request of the bank: Show me the original mortgage paperwork.

And just like that, the foreclosure proceedings came to a standstill.

Lovelace and other homeowners around the country are managing to stave off foreclosure by employing a strategy that goes to the heart of the whole nationwide mess.

During the real estate frenzy of the past decade, mortgages were sold and resold, bundled into securities and peddled to investors. In many cases, the original note signed by the homeowner was lost, stored away in a distant warehouse or destroyed.

Persuading a judge to compel production of hard-to-find or nonexistent documents can, at the very least, delay foreclosure, buying the homeowner some time and turning up the pressure on the lender to renegotiate the mortgage.

For the complete article, click here

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San Jose Mercury News article: The basics of freezing

Posted on February 5, 2009. Filed under: Cooking and Eating, Home & Garden, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

The basics of freezing

Mercury News staff and wire reports
Posted: 02/03/2009 05:00:00 PM PST

Nothing ever rots. That’s the good and bad of the freezer. Good because its preservative powers let you stock up on bargain meat, save perishable ingredients, revisit your summer garden in February. Bad because, without the motivation of stink, it can become a bleak tundra of mysterious packages, their contents iced and freezer-burned beyond redemption.

To bring your freezer back from the dark side, some tips and inspiration:

The first rule of freezing

Do it fast. Slow freezing allows the formation of large ice crystals that will damage food’s cell structure. The two main components of quick freezing:

Cold. Keep your freezer at 0 degrees. If your refrigerator’s freezer gets opened a lot, consider using a stand-alone freezer for long-term storage.

Shallow.  Food to be frozen should be no more than two inches deep, so look for flat-storage options, such as shallow containers and bags laid flat. Don’t stack packages to be frozen.

The second rule of freezing

Reduce the amount of air around the food, by vacuum-sealing or storing in a tightly sealed container or bag. (Containers need an inch of head space to allow for expansion.)

The third rule of freezing

Label and date.  How long will it be good?

Safety: Food is preserved indefinitely at 0 degrees, though it needs to be handled properly before and after freezing. Bacteria or mold can become active again when thawed.

Freshness: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s maximum recommended storage times for quality range from a month (sausage) to a year (uncooked beef roasts). The main enemies are ice crystals and freezer burn.

Freezer burn — dryness caused by air — isn’t unsafe; just cut away the damaged spots.

Defrosting
The easy way is in the refrigerator, where food won’t get warm enough for bacterial growth. Next best are immersion in cold water (in a leakproof plastic bag) or, if you plan to cook immediately after thawing, in the microwave. The USDA warns against defrosting in your car, dishwasher or yard. Refreezing It’s OK to refreeze raw food that has been thawed in the refrigerator (though the texture may suffer). It’s OK to refreeze partly frozen food as long as it hasn’t been warmer than 40 degrees for more than two hours.

Containers
Food will be a lot better protected by containers intended for the freezer than by your old yogurt containers. A test of various methods by The Washington Post food staff yielded some general rules:

Plastic wrap and food storage bags tend to become less airtight over time. Even the heavier bags intended for freezing shouldn’t be trusted much past a month. For best results, use two layers, wrapping food in plastic wrap, then sealing it in a freezer bag. If microwaving to thaw, remember to vent bag at least an inch and watch that it doesn’t melt. Home vacuum-seal methods, like Food Saver, sometimes require multiple tries to get an airtight seal; most problematic are meats or items containing moisture. Recheck the seal after a month in the freezer.

Polypropylene freezer containers, of flexible plastic, are available in a range of prices, from supermarket products to more expensive models with easy clip or snap fasteners. The inexpensive ones are prone to lose their tight seal after a month in the freezer. And read the labels: Some are not made for microwave and dishwasher, and some should not be used for fats or oils. Polycarbonate freezer containers, of rigid, clear plastic, are good options for long-term freezing and for microwaving — though you’ll pay more. Brands include Freshvac and Snapware.

Eggs
Don’t freeze eggs in the shell. Egg whites can be frozen easily; some people freeze them in ice cube trays, then store in plastic bags. Yolks are more problematic, because they get gummy. The solution: Beat a quarter-cup of yolks with 1½ teaspoons of sugar or 1/8 teaspoon of salt, then freeze for up to three months. Then remember to use appropriately, sweet or savory.

Meat and poultry
They can be frozen in supermarket wrapping for a month or so; any longer than that, and you’ll want to give it more solid packaging. Meat vacuum-packed by the manufacturer generally doesn’t need more protection.

Produce
Most vegetables should be blanched before freezing — cooked in boiling water for two or three minutes — to halt enzyme activity that can diminish flavor and color. Most fruits benefit from freezing in syrup or with a sprinkling of sugar; some also need citric acid or ascorbic acid to prevent discoloration. Bags of purchased frozen fruits and vegetables should be double-packaged inside a freezer bag to prevent ice crystals and extend shelf life.

Sources:
Washington Post, U.S. Department of Agriculture Resources General freezing guidelines: www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets
Freezing produce: www.extension.umn.edu/living; click on “food preservation” in the left column

Products:
Among retailers of freezer containers are the Container Store and Bed, Bath and Beyond.

What’s in your freezer? Some of my freezer staples include:

Homemade Stock

Tomato sauce

Butter

Bacon

Grey Goose Vodka

Parmesan rinds

Ginger root

Cookie dough

Frozen bags of organic fruit (for yogurt smoothies)

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Senate passes bill to delay digital TV switch

Posted on January 27, 2009. Filed under: Entertainment, Software & Technology, Utilities | Tags: , , , , |

Senate passes bill to delay digital TV switch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Senate passed a bill on Monday to delay the nationwide switch to digital TV signals, giving consumers nearly four more months to prepare.

The transition date would move to June 12 from February 17 under the bill that was fueled by worries that viewers are not technically ready for the congressionally-mandated switch-over.

It also would allow consumers with expired coupons, available from the government to offset the cost of a $40 converter box, to request new coupons. The government ran out of coupons earlier this month, and about 2.5 million Americans are on a waiting list for them.

Click here for full article

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14 good uses for coffee filters

Posted on January 20, 2009. Filed under: Home & Garden, Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Coffee Filters COFFEE  FILTERS:  Inexpensive when purchased     at the dollar store and not just for making coffee (which helps  filter out the bad cholesteral raising coffee oils) …

1.  Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.

2.  Clean windows and mirrors. Coffee filters are lint-free so they’ll leave windows sparkling.

3.  Protect China.  Separate your good dishes by putting a coffee filter between each dish.

4.  Filter broken cork from wine.  If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

5.  Protect a cast-iron skillet.  Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

6.  Apply shoe polish.  Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.

7.  Recycle frying oil.   After frying,  strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.

8.  Weigh chopped foods.   Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.

9.  Hold tacos.  Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.

10.  Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot.   Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.

11.  Prevent a Popsicle from dripping.  Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.

12.  Use expensive strips to wax eyebrows?  Use strips of coffee filters instead.

13.  Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, french fries, chicken fingers, etc. on them.  Soaks out all the grease.

14.  Keep in the bathroom. They make great “razor nick fixers.”

Any other ideas?  Please feel free to post!

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CitySkoop.com – find local sales, specials and promotions,

Posted on November 19, 2008. Filed under: Bargain Shopping, Cooking and Eating, Entertainment, Health & Beauty, Home & Garden, Low Money Fun, San Francisco Bay Area, Travel & Leisure | Tags: , , , , |

CitySkoop.com

Shopping SalesRestaurant PromotionsSpa & Fitness Deals

Sign up for FREE to win a $400 gift card!

WHAT IS CITYSKOOP.COM? CitySkoop.com is your source for local sales, specials and promotions.

Find Clothing & Furniture sales up to 80% off, Restaurants offering half price wine and food nights, discounts on Spa & Fitness services, Hotel specials and much more!

WHY SIGN UP? Membership is FREE and gives you the following benefits:

  • Deal Alert Newsletter – be the first to hear about hot deals
  • Save listings to your private folder
  • Email listings to your friends and family
  • Chance to win a $400 Gift Card* to a local business
    • Currently your choice of Best Buy, Mastro’s Steakhouse, The Palm or Bloomingdale’s

WHAT YOU’LL FIND

  • Food & Drink Promotions – Half-off wine nights, special holiday meals, happy hour specials, drink specials, Restaurant Week menus and more!
  • Shopping Deals – Sample sales, trunk shows, warehouse sales, holiday sales and more for Women’s Clothing, Men’s Clothing, Kids & Toys, Sporting & Outdoor and Pets.
  • Body & Beauty Deals – Spa discounts, special spa packages, salon discounts, yoga and pilates deals, fitness center discounts and more!
  • Home & Garden – Furniture sales, floor sample sales, lighting discounts and home and garden decor deals.
  • Travel – Hotel and Resort discounts, airline deals and promotions.
  • Online Shopping Deals – Clothing sales, electronics discounts, sporting goods sales, shoe sales and more!

WHERE CITYSKOOP IS LOCATED Look for them in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and San Diego. Coming soon to Las Vegas, Boston, Miami and Atlanta.

Membership is FREE, so sign up today!!

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Save money and reduce carbon emissions – Free software helps you manage your PC power consumption

Posted on October 26, 2008. Filed under: Home & Garden, Software & Technology, Utilities | Tags: , , , , |

Edison was developed by Verdiem, a company that has helped enterprises the world over reduce energy waste from IT devices. Now Verdiem is bringing Edison into your home—at no cost whatsoever.

Edison is a free PC energy management tool for everyone. It is an easy-to-use, consumer-friendly application that allows users to set energy savings controls on PCs.  Verdiem’s new version of Edison allows you to choose the level of energy savings you want, set a “sleep” schedule, and see estimated savings. Set it and forget it.

Save money and reduce carbon emissions

According to their blog, at product launch in August, 2008, Verdiem challenged consumers to help support the Climate Savers Computing Initiative’s goal of reducing PC-related carbon emissions by 54 million tons by 2010. If just 1% of the world’s PCs – or 10 million – used Edison, we could reduce PC-related carbon emissions by 7 billion pounds, which is equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road (source).

Click here to download Edison and you can start saving energy and fight climate change.

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