Category Archives: Saving Money

DON’T BUY Gilmour Soaker Hose


Update 1: THANKS again to Kate R for this recommendation for a soaker hose that is NOT TOXIC! It’s also made right here in the USA. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive but read the description – it’s non toxic: lead- phthalate and bpa-free and is made of FDA grade non-leaching polyurethane.

Update 2: Gilmour manufacturer, Fiskar’s, responded immediately to my email to let me know that, “For the few products of ours that still carry this label, the culprit is lead substrate.  This means there are trace amounts of lead embedded in your product.”

While it’s not BPA or phthalate, lead is still not something I want to stream into my garden.

Original Post: It is with my sincere apologies that I share this information:

Gilmour Soaker hoses contain “…one or more chemicals that are known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects.”

I have had my soaker hoses for years and simply had no idea that the products used to create these soaker hoses contain chemicals that are dangerous like lead, BPA and phthalates.

If you want to know what hoses to buy, which ones are safe and which ones are not, please go to Eartheasy, one of my favorite resources, and read their article on healthy hoses.

THANKS again to Kate R for this recommendation for a soaker hose that is NOT TOXIC! It’s also made right here in the USA. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive but read the description – it’s non toxic: lead- phthalate and bpa-free and is made of FDA grade non-leaching polyurethane.

If you are really concerned about your health and you garden, this is the soaker hose to use. I am replacing my Gilmour hoses now so I can be ready for spring.

Please accept my sincere apologies for endorsing a product that is anything but healthy.

SPECIAL THANKS to Kate R for letting me know about the dangers of Gilmour soaker hoses…and all other hoses.


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Filed under Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money

A Tale of 3 Companies – 2 Understand Customer Service

We are in the midst of renovating our kitchen.

My husband and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary by renovating instead of going to Italy or going on the Power Tour.  So this renovation is a big deal to us.  We are doing a lot of the work but we are also relying on three companies for product and installation.

Two of these companies get customer service, completely.  The 3rd company was and is a huge disappointment to us.  This is the story of these 3 companies.

We shopped around for the granite counter tops and found Troy Granite had the deepest inventory and the best price of any of the 4 companies we considered.  We ordered our granite counter tops from Troy and they threw in a new under mount, double bowl sink, free.

We also found our environmentally friendly floor at Troy Granite which is truly a one-stop shop for renovations of all kinds.  But we picked up the new faucet — VIGO VG02006ST PullDown Kitchen Spray Faucet, Steel  at Amazon.

Countertops and floor taken care of, we moved to the piece de resistance for me (I cook and can and bake, a lot)  — a new Jenn-Air, down draft, stainless steel stove.

We bought our new stove at an appliance store called Hawkins and Sons – the second company of the 3 involved in our kitchen reno saga. Granted our stove wasn’t a Wolf or a Viking but it equaled 25% of the cost of our kitchen renovation — a sizable chunk of our budget and a considerable investment from our perspective.

Hawkins was paid to do the conversion for the stove – gas to propane – then we would pick it up, take it home and put it in place for the third company — Kauffman Gas – to connect the stove to the gas line which was already in place.

Everything was going well until the morning of January 22nd.

The team from Kauffman Gas arrived on time, worked quickly and efficiently and had the propane gas line to the stove hooked up in less than 30 minutes.  So far so good but not for long.

Steve called me to the kitchen.  First, he told me that the appliance company had not completed the conversion that we had paid extra for it to do.  Steve told me he took care of that but…when he fired up the stove, he ran into a huge problem.  One of the gas lines inside the stove was fractured.

Turning on the grill on the left side of the stove, he demonstrated. Flames shot 6 inches out from under the surface and rose a foot above the grill.

Steve, who works with gas-fired appliances all day long, took the knobs off the front of the stove and told his assistant to turn off the gas valve in the basement and the one on the outside tank.

I called my husband; he called Hawkins, immediately.  The reaction he got was less than stellar.

No concern was expressed.  No responsibility was acknowledged.  Not only did they not offer to replace the stove, they weren’t really interested in sending a repair person to the house.  In fact, they made it my husband’s problem by forcing him to meet their schedule — forcing him to take a day off work to let their repair person in to see what was wrong with the new stove they sold us.

Clearly, the words “customer” and “service” are not in the Hawkins lexicon but we had no choice.  We owned a very expensive and unusable stove.

Hawkins’ repair man confirmed what Kauffman’s technician had told us – a factory defect.  Two more weeks without a stove or oven. Still no offer to replace the stove – parts would be ordered and the repair would be done here even though the stainless steel on the top of the stove was warped, even though I had no confidence in the safety of this gas-fueled stove top.

With my confidence in the product gone and no help from the store where we bought it, my husband wrote an email to the CEO of Whirlpool – the third company in this story and the company that came to the rescue quickly, efficiently and effectively.  

Within 4 hours of sending the email, we received a reply.  Whirlpool would be happy to replace the stove.   The new stove would be shipped from the factory in the mid-West.  Whirlpool’s technicians would do the conversion and installation on site and on our schedule.  And they would remove the damaged stove.  No questions, no arguments just a swift and wonderful response to our dilemma.

How sad that Hawkins refused to take responsibility for a problem with an appliance they sold to us.  How wonderful that Kauffman Gas went the extra mile to help us and to ensure we were safe.

And how remarkable that a major corporation – Whirlpool – listened to our problem and resolved it in less time than it took for Hawkins to try to argue its way out or responsibility for its failure.

Thank you Whirlpool. Thank you Kauffman Gas.  Shame on you Hawkins & Sons Appliances.


Filed under arm wresting, Budgeting, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money, World Changing Ideas

Oprah’s Maui Farm – One Organic Gardener’s Take

As a gardener, an organic gardener at that, I was interested in the news that Oprah was, “…growing her own food.”

It’s the feature article in the latest issue of her magazine.  And it is a true disappointment.

If she’s gardening, I’d like to know how she keeps her manicure perfect, her make up from streaming down her face and her bright yellow (and very expensive) togs clean.

I garden.  When I garden, I get dirty.  My face ends up streaked with dirt.  My fingernails look like I’ve spent the morning digging for coal instead of digging dirt.  And my clothes have to come off before I come into the house.

And unless one has an absolute army of people to help keep the rows and plants weed free, the organic gardeners I know, including me, use lots of organic mulch — grass clippings, straw, chopped leaves — to keep the veggies happy and health.

Is her concept laudable?  Yes.  Hawaiians import far too much food and eat far too many foods that are not good for them.

Could Oprah be an organic gardener and grow her own food?  Sure, but should she  advertise that she is when about all she does is show up and hold a big butt radish now and again?

I love it when celebrities finally jump into a cause — healthy eating, green living, eco-whatever.  But I really wish celebrities would realize that the rest of us — people around the world who are and have been, “…growing their own food” are not going to be fooled by pictures of them mincing along a row with a wheelbarrow of food that someone else planted, tended and quite probably, harvested.

My organic gardening book is about to be released.  My organic gardening blog of the same name – Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us – is, literally, all about down and dirty gardening.

The blog and book are funny.  They’re a” how to” with a whole lot of stories tossed in about how I learned about organic gardening — mostly the hard way.  And I go out of my way to demystify organic gardening, making it easy, making it enjoyable and making it something that anyone can do without a lot of money, without a lot of hands on deck.

Grow So Easy author's back yard.

Anyone can grow their own food and have fun doing it.

In other words, you don’t have to be Oprah to grow your own food.  In fact, you’ll probably enjoy organic gardening more if you’re not!  Maybe Oprah should visit my back yard and see what a real organic gardener can do with two hands, seeds and dirt.

Oprah’s Maui Farm – Oprah on Growing Her Own Food –

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Filed under Gardening, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money, World Changing Ideas

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! « Pepperbox Couture

I rarely re post anything from any writer as I don’t want to abuse the writer or my readers….but

This is an unbelievable list of tips that really do make life easier, get use and re-use out of what could be considered junk and really, really work!

99 Life Hacks to make your life easier! « Pepperbox Couture.

ps – don’t try to print it.  It’s 73 pages long.  Just pass it along!!

and Happy Holidays to everyone.


Filed under Budgeting, Education, Home Ec on Acid, Saving Money

Trying To Lose Weight? What Really Makes Me Mad

So, I already whined about just how heavy a lot of Americans are.  And I whined a bit about the responsibility we each have for our  own weight loss.

Now let’s talk about what I call the real villain in this battle of the bulge.

Follow the Money
This is America.  If you can make money off it, no matter what the cost to other people, other businesses and even other countries, we do.  Want some examples?

  1. When there were no other loopholes to crawl through and the state’s attorney generals finally insisted that big tobacco companies pay up for all the damage they did with their products, didn’t we just export cigarettes to 3rd world countries?
  2. Didn’t a very large consumer brand deliberately develop and implement a marketing strategy t sell its baby formula to 3rd world countries where the formula needed to re-hydrated with clean water and under sanitary conditions, neither of which existed?
  3. Isn’t one of the multi-national agri-businesses being allowed to genetically modify basic food crops like corn and wheat and quite possibly adding a deadly bacteria into the mix?

The business of weight is no different.

The Road To The Fat Farm
Companies build brands — supposedly brands we can trust to bring us healthy products or at the very least, products that do no harm.  These same companies then create products with ingredients that are cheaper for them, almost always refined and, if you look carefully, almost always contain at least two types of sugar, one of which will be high fructose corn syrup.

Next, these companies develop strategic marketing plans designed to make all of us (and I do mean all of us) reach for their particular corn chip or soda or cereal.  And reach for them we do.

According to the CDC, one half of the US population consumes sugary drinks…every day.  People drink this dressed up sugar-water even though they know it is linked to Type II diabetes and to cancer.

And we snack…man do we snack.  In fact, it’s estimated that almost 100% of us snack.  And all that snacking is not helping us with our weight problems.   According to a 2011 CNN report, we snack more, now, than we ever did.  Americans are eating constantly.  The same  study showed that the size of the snacks we eat has grown by 12%, right along with our waist lines.

What Really Makes Me Mad
Right behind the companies that make products infused with sugar, refined flours and high fructose corn syrup are the companies hawking easy weight loss.  I don’t like brands that market junk food; I hate companies that market diet aids.

But we buy these products, too.   In 2010, revenues for companies selling weight loss products was $60.9 billion dollars.

And according to the FDA, these weight loss pills and potions don’t meet any of their promises.  Worse yet, the FDA says they often contain dangerous prescription drugs that can cause real health problems like stroke or heart attack.  Anybody old enough to remember Fen Phen?  It worked, if it didn’t kill you first.

How To Lose Weight
So, I’ll go back to my original premise, the one I posted about first, the one learned because my husband has Type II diabetes and we both ended up on his diet.

  1. Stop eating all the time.  Did you now it only takes 100 extra calories a day to gain about a pound a month?  Or to put it more positively, as the American Diabetes Association ways, Did you know that it only takes 100 extra calories a day to gain a pound a month?
  2. Stop eating snacks that contain high fructose corn syrup, refined flour and sugar.
  3. Read labels!  There is sugar in everything and usually in 3 or 4 and sometimes 5 different names are used in the ingredient list including just plain sugar to corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey (yep, it’s good for you but it’s still sugar).  In fact, Harvard has a published list of all the variations on a theme of sugar so you know exactly what you are eating when the label says maltose or crystalline fructose.  Yep, that’s right, they’re both sugar.
  4. Stop drinking soda!  If you can give one thing up, give this up.  But if you have to drink carbonated brown water, go for diet.  At least you won’t be pouring white sugar down your throat.
  5. Cut down your portions.  It is not hard.  Just start measuring so you know what a cup really looks like.  You’ll be surprised.
  6. Learn what foods are good for you and instead of having 3 cups of sugar-coated cereal, have oatmeal with a bit of almond butter or peanut butter.
  7. Eat fresh and eat local – support your neighbors and get the freshest, best foods for you without supporting an Israeli or California grower who ships thousands of miles and uses some pretty fancy tricks to preserve produce so it can do so.
  8. Start walking or riding a bike or dancing, skating, even jumping rope.  You may find out that you like it…and your joints and organs will thank you.

I know it’s hard to think about and even harder to do.  It was for me.  I wanted to lose weight the easy way.  But when my husband got a life-threatening illness, I decided it was time to take the plunge, change my eating habits, clean up what I cook and how and start enjoying the very healthy way of life that we both, now lead.

Give it a try.  You might find out that it costs less, feels better and, in the long run, improves your life immeasurably.


Filed under Death & Dying, Healthcare, Life & Death, Medical Writing, Saving Money

Trying To Lose Weight? My Gripe!

Okay, so there are some people in the United States who, legitimately, have to have help losing weight.  Some people truly have glandular problems.  Or genetics makes it more difficult for them to control their weight.  But really…

Look around.  Very young, teenage, mid-20’s and on up through the ranks…Americans have tipped the scales and more are overweight than not.

Here’s the bad news.  Being fat is just the beginning of this tale of woe.

Behind all those extra pounds are billions and billions of dollars being spent on diseases that are directly linked to carrying extra weight – diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hip, knee and ankle wear requiring replacements, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and yes, even cancer.

The numbers are there – how many obese, how many associated diseases, how much faster death is going to arrive at your door if your favorite foods are large portions — all fried, dipped in sugar or laden with high fructose corn syrup.  And still, people plow through refined foods like white bread, pasta, and french fries and wash them down with soda.

The numbers on how much obesity is costing this country are almost as staggering as the numbers of people who are overweight.  We spend more on obesity than we do on smoking.

In fact, it’s estimated that, if something doesn’t change,  in just 6 years, we will be spending just under $200 billion (that’s billion with a b) treating the results of overeating.  More than 1/3rd of the US health care budget is going to be eaten up by the preventable diseases resulting from obesity.

If it’s preventable, why are so many people in this country not…preventing it?

That is the big question.  And some of the answers are almost as disturbing as the  problem, itself.

I’m not a doctor.  Not a nurse or a health care professional of any kind.  I am old…er.  I have gained and lost the same 20 pounds for more than 40 years.  I blamed my lightly padded hips on my daughter for 40 of her 45 years of existence.  But I was lying to myself.  You see, I know what caused my overweight condition and, I’m willing to bet, most of the excess weight the rest of us are dragging around.

You aren’t going to like the cause.  I didn’t either.

I kept opening my mouth and inserting food – granted not french fries or hoagies or even donuts (although I dreamed about eating donuts) but I wasn’t eating healthy foods.  Bottom line?  I was, am and always will be the only person responsible for how fat or how thin I am.

This is not a revelation.  It is a fact.  Instead of opening my mouth and shoving food in it, any food, food I thought tasted good, food to fill an idle moment or a sad moment or a lonely moment….I decided to shut my mouth, stop thinking of food as solace and start thinking of it as fuel, energy, a  way to power my body, not soothe my brain.

Guess what?  It worked.  In 12 months, I lost 38 pounds.  And I really didn’t think I had 38 pounds to lose!  But I did and it was easier than I thought it could be.  And my hips don’t ache anymore.  My food bill has gone down because I’m not buying $5 bags of corn chips or cases of sugar water…I mean soda.  And I like walking, riding my horse, gardening  and doing yoga without any pain.

Guess what else I learned?  There are no magic pills that let you eat all you want of everything you want and “…still lose weight.”

Anyone else wake up and realize your weight is directly tied to your hand which is directly tied to your mouth?  Share your story.

And in my next post, I’ll share what really makes me mad about obesity!  Warning: You may not like what I have to say.


Filed under Death & Dying, Healthcare, Life & Death, Medical Writing, Saving Money

Scamming the Unemployed – Really?

It’s not bad enough that millions of qualified men and women in this country can’t get a job.

It’s not bad enough that, in Pennsylvania, you have to hire a lawyer to arm wrestle with the minions at the unemployment office to get back some of that money that we have paid into the fund over all the years we have worked — 50 in my case.

Now, unemployed people who are seriously looking for jobs are being scammed, big time.

My first encounter with a scammer came when I answered a Craigslist ad for an Administrative Assistant at a busy doctor’s office.  Imagine my surprise when I received an email from someone named David Marks that said, “Your resume was received and it has been reviewed, I did appreciate it. So I will give this a GO.”

But…he needed a bit more information like my first, middle and last names, my street address including city, state and zip, my cell and home phone numbers, my current occupation and my email address.

Hmmmm….if he had really reviewed my resume, wouldn’t he already know all of this information?  First hint that something was just not right.

Then Mr. Marks described how this would work:

  1. He wasn’t in town often so we would only communicate via email.
  2. He didn’t really have an office so I would be  working from home.
  3. He would pay me $785 a week for a part time job.
  4. Work would include doing personal chores, scheduling flights and making, “…regular contacts and drop offs on my behalf.”

Sounds just a bit off – $785 a week for a part time job working for a man I will never meet and making contacts and dropping off…what…on his behalf.  Second hint that this was not a kosher offer.

The final hint that Mr. Marks was a rat-scammer was this incredibly transparent paragraph:

“What i would want you to do for me this week is to run some errands out to some of the orphanage home, I do that every month. A payment in form of a Cashier Check/Money Order will be sent over to you from one of my clients and i have some lists to email you once you received the funds,You will make some arrangements by buying some stuff for the kids in the Orphanage at any nearest store around you so you can mail them out.”

Really?  I don’t know you, have never met you, work out of my home because you don’t have an office and I’m supposed to …run money for you?  Of course, throwing in the orphanage was a nice touch but hello…Mr. Marks…I may want a job but I am not really desperate or stupid.

Today, a more sophisticated scammer than Mr. Marks (hard to imagine, isn’t it?) sent me an email from an Human Resources department for a company that does exist – LDR Distributions – saying they had , “…reviewed your resume and you’re a great match for this position.”  I was to go online and make a formal application.

Great, exciting but…one immediate problem.  When I tried to apply using the link in the email, I kept getting a pop up asking me to fill in an “anti-spam” survey and offering me a chance at gift cards ranging from $100 from the Cheesecake Factory to $1000 from Kohls.  The hair on the back of my neck started rising.

The other problem with this fairly professional attempt to skim my personal information is the type of business LDR is.  This company is a warehouse and distribution company.  I am a 64 year old woman recovering from shoulder surgery.  Would I really apply for a job with them?  Not!  And, because I keep a copy of every ad I answer along with my submission, I was able to prove to myself that I had not fallen, hit my head and applied for the privilege of packing, toting and shipping large packages.

Tips for would be job seekers:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!  Like getting a part time gig that lets me work from home and get paid $785 a week.
  2. DO NOT include any contact information at all when responding to a blind ad on Craigslist or any other job board unless you know for sure they are a legitimate business engaged in matching employees and employers like Monster or Career Builder.
  3. GOOGLE names, businesses, even job titles and include the word “scam” in the search.  You will quickly discover you are not alone.  There are a lot of people being scammed by some truly low people out there trying to make money off our misfortune.

And keep the faith.  Somewhere out there, there is a job for each and every one of us that truly wants to work.


Filed under Budgeting, Education, Life & Death, Saving Money, Work