An Easy Way to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

A couple of weeks ago, the produce market sent me home with a bag of apples containing an unadvertised and undesirable “Free Gift with Purchase”: fruit flies! Unfortunately, this happened at a time when I was traveling a bit, and I didn’t realize I had new roommates until a full-blown infestation was underway.

From the depths of my memory, I recalled a tip advising the use of apple cider vinegar and a jar with holes in the lid to trap fruit flies. Something about the apple cider aspect attracting the fruit flies and tiny holes preventing their escape from the jar.

Since this seemed like an incredibly easy and inexpensive possibility, I gave it a try, but with a slightly different take on it:

mason jar with saran wrap under lid and cider vinegar inside

Not wanting to desecrate any of my jar lids, I put plastic wrap under the jar ring and used a toothpick to poke a few holes in the plastic.

Within minutes I had one fruit fly in the trap and an hour later, there were four or five. By morning, the jar looked like the aftermath of the Great Fruit Fly Massacre of 2013:

expired fruit flies in a mason jar with apple cider vinegar

Fruit Fly Graveyard

So easy, so frugal, and (so far) so very effective.

On the downside, there is a residual amount of guilt from killing semi-innocent fruit flies, but I suspect I’ll get over it.

If you have any effective ways to deal with fruit flies, I’d love to hear them!

Quick Tip: Is It Stationery or Stationary?

I don’t like to brag, but I’m a pretty good speller. I even came in third place in a junior high spelling bee once. (Until a few years ago, I always thought I was first runner-up, but my mother corrected me. Still not a bad finish.)

Despite all that, I do have words that trip me up to this day. One, or should I say two, of those are stationary and stationery. One means immobile or at rest, and the other is something you write on. I know the difference, but I’ve almost always had to look them up to make sure I’m using the right spelling. Until now, that is.

stationery

An envelope, which begins with an ‘e‘, is a type of stationery.

So simple.

And should you need a visual, the a in stationary, could be represented by a stationary bike. It should be noted, of course, that it’s the bike which is at rest, not the rider. :)

stationary

This all came in very handy a couple weeks ago when I gave away an old stationary bike on Freecyle and didn’t have to look up the spelling before posting the listing. :)

What spellings trip you up? Have you found any easy-to-remember solutions for those?

Quick and Easy Tip for Cleaning Vinyl Floors

During my last post, in which I showed you an easy way to remove sticky spots from the floor, I lamented the sad state of my 40-year old vinyl flooring. All that inherited and ground-in grime that repeated scrubbing with every product known to mankind hadn’t been able to lift. I even tried ironing my floor, if you can believe that! (Hey, it worked on a carpet stain in my office, so I thought, why not? Didn’t work for me on the vinyl.)

But in reading the comments section of Jillee’s floor-ironing article, I chanced upon a reader tip that changed everything! A reader named Joyce had this suggestion:

spray scrubbing bubbles on the laminate floor, let it sit for about 20 min and mop up.

Bubbles are for the bathtub, silly. Pffft! Except, as one commenter noted, the main product in the scrubbing bubbles is ammonia, and that’s what I’d been ironing my floor with, per Jillee’s instructions. Could using bathroom bubbles on the kitchen floor be any sillier than using an iron on it?

What the heck? I had some Scrubbing Bubbles leftover anyway, so it was worth a shot.

dirty vinyl flooring

cleaner vinyl flooring

Now there was some scrubbing by yours truly involved. Those black dots didn’t just jump off the floor. But the bubbles did the biggest part of the work. It doesn’t look like a brand new floor, but it does look more like a clean floor, and that was my intention all along!

Thank you, Joyce, wherever you are! And Jillee for getting the whole discussion started!

One last shot, for comparative purposes:

before and after vinyl floors

Whew! I can now reinstitute the 5-second rule! :)

Removing Icky, Sticky Spots from Floors

I was mopping my kitchen floor the other night and found an ugly stuck-on piece of…well, it’s a mystery.

ickybsticky spot on linoleum

My best guess is road tar tracked in on the bottom of my sneakers, but who knows, it could be anything. I tried turbo mopping and then a plastic scrubby with no results. Ditto various other implements and cleaning solutions. This mystery gunk was STUCK!

I’d just about decided it would be simpler to pave my kitchen floor with asphalt when I remembered I had an internet connection. Oh yeah…

Bob Vila to the rescue!

For stubborn scuffs, try putting some WD-40 lubricant or jojoba oil on a towel and rub the area until the scuffs disappear. Clean thoroughly with the vinegar and water solution to remove any traces of lubrication.

This was more “stuff” than “scuff”, but it was stubborn and I did happen to have a tiny can of WD-40. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, right?

spot is gone

It took me longer to find the WD-40 (it being right where it was supposed to be in the cabinet of seldom-used-but-important-to-have stuff) than it did to scrub up the spot. Amazing!

Thanks, Bob!

I’m still working on getting all the teensy little divots and dings clean. This is 40-year old vinyl flooring that wasn’t maintained very well by the original owner. The current owner is no Suzy Homemaker, either. :)

Any tips or tricks for deep-cleaning vinyl floors will be greatly appreciated! Given my current budget, I need to keep these around awhile.

Quick Tip: Removing Bug Residue from Car

Washing the car is one of those tasks I don’t mind so much, except for the front bumper. It’s a bug graveyard up there, y’all, and even the thought of having to scrub and scrub and scrub will have me putting off a car wash for as long as possible.

That’s all changed now. I read a tip on AutoEvolution (not in the article, but in the comments) that was so simple I couldn’t believe it would work.

Here’s what you need:
1) Spray bottle
2) Dryer sheet
3) Warm water

That’s it. You put the dryer sheet in the spray bottle and fill the bottle half (or so) full of warm water. Spray on the bumper and wash the bugs away. I used another dryer sheet as a scrubber and, I swear, it was like the bugs were jumping off the bumper. Which isn’t likely, considering they were long dead. Unless they were some kind of Lazarus bugs. :)

I did remember to pause halfway through to grab a demonstration photo:

before and after front bumper

Isn’t it amazing?

After the bugs were gone, I gave the bumper another pass with my soapy sponge and rinse water to rinse off any linger residue.

I’m so thrilled to have discovered this super easy method of banishing the bugs. I only wish it would work on the live ones. :)

A Peek Into My Freelancing Toolbox

As a freelancer, I sometimes find myself in need of office tools I don’t have. As a freelancer on a budget, I’ve had to find workarounds to get things done. Here’s a peek at a few of the tools I’ve found especially helpful:

GotFreeFax.com

One company with which I works requires work orders to be faxed to a fax machine. Not email, a gen-u-ine fax machine. While my all-in-one printer/scanner/copier has fax capabilities, I don’t have a separate line for faxing and it was too cost prohibitive to put one in for only one client. Also costly was ($2/page) using a nearby copy/shipping-type company’s fax service. Fortunately, I found gotfreefax.com, which allows me to fax scanned pdf or doc files to a fax machine at the low cost of zero dollars for up to two faxes (3 pages or less) per day. And if I need to send a larger packet, I can send 10 pages for about a dollar. Sweet!

PDFSplit!

This week I had a situation in which I needed to split a 5-page PDF file into two separate files in order to meet gotfreefax’s 3-page-per-fax criteria. With PDFSplit!, I was able to do that in about half a minute. And it’s free!

DropBox

I travel a lot and need to have easy access to all my client files wherever I am. Dropbox is an easy-to-use file/photo cloud-based storage service that provides 4G of storage for free, with other packages available for a fee. I’ve been using it for a while now, and I’m still not at 50% of the limit. (One of my goals is to become so wildly successful that I have to buy storage! :) ) I have it set to sync with both my desktop and my laptop computers, so I can access my files from both…or even from a client’s computer.

Google Docs Drive

While I use Microsoft’s Office suite for most of my work, I do use Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) when I’m working collaboratively with others. Drive offers word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation applications (and more besides), with the ability to give access to others for viewing or editing the files. Real life example: when planning a conference, the main organizer and I were able to manage the registrations, calendars, and communications by using the same set of documents. No sending files back and forth, no uploading to a server–we used the same set of documents, and it was perfect!

Those are just a few of the tools I’ve found helpful for my freelancing work. Most have also come in handy in everyday life as well. And the best part of all is that they’re all FREE!

Tip Test: Cleaning Foggy Headlights

One of my first Pinterest re-pins was a tip claiming that one could clean and restore foggy headlight covers using only toothpaste and a clean cloth. Every time I scan my pins, I think, I have toothpaste. I have a clean cloth. I have foggy headlights. And yet, I’ve not ever tried it. Until today. :)

before during after photos

As you can see, the cloudy area is somewhat diminished (smudged), but it’s still very much there. :( On a positive note, the non-foggy parts are ever so much shinier. :)

Before I proclaim this tip a total fail, I’m going to try again with a cheaper toothpaste and a little more elbow grease. I’ll update after test #2.

Have you tried this one? Do you think you might try it? Please let me know your results!

Good Use for a Low-Balance Prepaid Debit Card

Have you ever wanted to sign up for a free trial of some product or service, but were hesitant to give your credit or debit card number? Maybe you don’t know much about the company and are leery of this unknown entity having your number, or maybe you’re afraid you’ll forget to cancel the service in time to avoid the eventual charge. Whatever your reason, you don’t want to use your card.

low balance prepaid debit cardIf you have a low-balance prepaid debit card laying around (I always seem to end up with a few dollars left on those things), you can use that card number to sign up for the free trial.

This method provides several benefits:

1) If you don’t want to sign up and there’s a problem with the cancellation, you’re only out the small balance on the card.

2) If it turns out that it really was a shady website, they might have your few dollars, but they don’t have your real debit/credit card number.

And, of course, if you like the product/service and want to sign up, you only have to change the billing info to your real card before the trial is over.

One caveat: The person who told me about this said he’d only had one situation in which the trial transaction didn’t go through due to the low balance on the card. So there’s that possibility.

All things considered, it’s certainly worth a try!

Tips for Shopping Garage Sales Successfully

Spring excites me for the warm temperatures and the return of green everything. I’ll admit that I also get excited at the thought of new garage sales to be explored. So many possibilities…

I’ve shared tips here on having a successful garage sale, and I thought I’d share some of my tips for getting the most out of shopping garage sales. I’m no expert, by any stretch, but I do have a few successes in my past. Here’s a wee sampling of my favorites:

garage sale finds: chair, mixer, purse

As Tippy Toe Diet readers know, the Kitchen Aid Mixer is my favorite. I had one on my “want” list for a while, but I wasn’t about to shell out $250-$300 for one. I found this one at a small (read: car hood) sale and almost cried with joy. I still can’t believe my good fortune in finding it! Oh well, this doesn’t help you with your shopping, does it? Moving on…

Tips for Shopping Garage Sales Successfully

Get your finances in order. Make sure you have smaller bills on hand. For one thing, it’s rude to show up early at a sale and then try to pay for a $1.00 purchase with a $20.00 bill. Another consideration is that if you spread those small bills around various pants or purse pockets, you won’t be advertising that you have more money to spend. I’ve actually had several experiences in which the seller offered me a price lower than I was prepared to pay, just because he or she saw me pull a single bill out of my pocket. They didn’t know I had bills tucked in every pocket, and I didn’t bother correcting them!

Plan your route ahead of time. Whether you use classifieds or Craigslist or both, write down the sales you want to to hit and plan your route the night before. I usually group sales by start time and then map out my route based on where they’re located and what they’re advertising. For me, sales with “lots of baby items and kids’ clothes” go to the bottom of the list. At most, I’ll drive by those that are on my way to more promising sales and stop only if I see something that catches my fancy.

Keep a running list of items you hope to find. I usually scan first for the things on my list, and then for anything else that looks “interesting”. My current hopefuls are pretty plates, small bowls, a small shelf-suitable lamp, storage jars, and a couple of cabinet spice shelves.

Scrutinize and test everything. This one is really a given, but I’ve had people buy plenty of things without asking if they worked or if they could try them out. (I usually have a tag with, “It Works!”, on it, and I guess I must just have a trustworthy face. :) )

Open all boxes. People often keep original packaging and will put a used item back in it to sell. I don’t think they’re trying to pull a fast one; more likely they’re just trying to corral the contents. If you’re at a garage sale, you probably don’t care that it’s used, but you want to make sure the condition and the price match up. (Also, a friend of mine once got home and opened a box to find a wad of cash tucked into a pair of shoes. Fortunately, she remembered where she made the purchase and was able to return the cash to the seller, who gave her back what she’d paid for the shoes and $20 besides.)

Choose your haggles. I’m not one to try to negotiate every single purchase. If a $5 or $10 item seems worth the price, I pay it. The seller makes a little money, I’m saving a little money, and all is in balance. When I do engage in haggling, I usually simply ask, “Are you willing to accept a little less for this?” Quite often, the “little less” they respond with is lower than I would’ve asked for. If they aren’t willing to lower the price, I thank them anyway and leave it at that. Sometimes the seller will change his/her mind and lower the price before I leave. If they don’t, I just chalk it up as not meant to be.

Group items for a discount. This is my more common negotiating technique. If I have a total of $13 in items to purchase, I’ll ask if they’ll accept $10. It almost always works! (That said, I once had 6 or 7 items collected that totaled $11, and the seller wouldn’t accept $10 for all of it. The $11 was more than fair, and I actually needed the items, so I went ahead with the purchase. But I did pay with a $20. :) )

Carry a few business cards or index cards with your contact info. If a seller won’t make a deal with you, leave contact information with them and ask them to call you if they’re unable to sell the item and are willing to lower the price. It helps if you smile and wish them good luck in getting their price for it. :)

Consider “shopping the curb” later in the day. Many times, sellers will simply put unsold items at the curb when the sale is over. This boggles my mind, especially when I see an item that “couldn’t be sold for less than $20″ sitting at the curb four hours later. Personally, I’d rather get something for it rather than just throw it away, but some people don’t see it that way.

Shopping garage sales can be fun, and there are certainly savings to be had. For me, a little organization (but not rigidity) enhances the fun and the savings!

Do you have any favorite garage sale tips or strategies?

Waste Not, Want Not

It’s Tuesday morning, which is trash pick-up day in my neighborhood. That means it’s clean-out-the-fridge day at my house, time to clear out the tired and expired and remind myself of what needs to be used. With my goofy schedule, I forget sometimes. It’s especially problematic in the warmer months with fresh fruits and veggies are available in abundance and I tend to stockpile “cold foods”. With Spring rapidly approaching, I thought it might be a good time to look at a few ways to cut down on food waste.

Look what Susy Morris of Chiot’s Run does to keep track of her freezer inventory:

Yep, she uses a dry erase marker for tracking what’s in her freezer–very clever and very organized! This household of one doesn’t need quite that elaborate a scheme, but after testing a dry erase marker on the wall-side of my fridge, I have recently started using it to keep track of what’s in the fridge or freezer that needs to be used soon. I like having the visual reminder that there’s leftover barbecue chicken in the fridge before I make pasta with marinara for my dinner. :)

While I like the extra space in my fridge after a clean-out, I don’t like having to throw food out. Such a waste. Money Talks News published a good article, 12 Ways to Keep Good Food from Going Bad, with some ideas for making use of foods from your pantry or fridge that you might otherwise toss. (I’ll admit, though, that #9, “Bake old Oreos into crust”, had me laughing. As if Oreos in my pantry would ever go bad. :) )

One thing that might help with reducing waste and committing to eat what you buy, is to calculate the value of foods you purchase but don’t consume and then write a check to the local food bank for that amount. I haven’t had to write one yet, but if I do, that amount will come out of my future grocery budget. That’s actually inspiring me to check my pantry shelves for “aspirational foods” (they seemed like a good idea at the time) and donate them before they expire.

This week’s clean out was a good one for me. I only had one little stub of a cucumber that had passed it’s prime (and a step below that). It was a humongous cucumber, so I’ll give myself a pass on this one. :)

I hope you found some helpful information from this post. Be sure to leave a comment if you have tips of your own to share!

~

*One more note about the dry erase marker–you can also use it on other appliances. Washing a load of laundry that has an item that needs to be hung to dry rather than moved to the dryer? Write a note on the washer and wipe it away when the load has finished!