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Do It Yourself

Lately, whenever we run a load of clothes in the washing machine on the cold setting, the water just trickles into the machine.  The cold water flow from all of the other faucets is normal.  My husband has tried to clear the line into the washing machine, but cannot find any debris.  Does anyone out there have any ideas on what is wrong and how we can fix it ourselves?  Thanks!

We had the same problem and this is what we do every few months now.  Turn the water off and disconnect the hose from the washing machine.  Inside the hose connection at the washing machine are small screens.  they need to be pulled out with a pick or tweezers (be careful not to damage them) and cleaned.   Sediment and water deposits settle there and prevent the flow of the water.  Hope this works for you! –Isabelle

There are some little screens in the ends of your hoses that may be clogged. –Judy

Have you tried checking the water filter trap screens on the back of the machine where the hoses are connected? Sometimes they get clogged with hard water deposits.  –Jay

We just had this problem.  It was a part called the water inlet valve, where the hoses connect to the washing machine.  It was a $15-20 part.  Write down the model # of your washer and go to an appliance parts store. 

Mine did this also.  I pulled the hose off of the washer, the cold water hose, and removed the screen that goes into the washer.  It didn’t look that dirty, but cleaned it anyway.  That fixed it.

Behind our machine, right where the hose meets the washing machine line, there is a filter.  It’s a tiny wire filter, but my dh takes it out whenever I think the water flow is slowing down, and I clean it.  He puts it back in and it’s as good as new.  Other than that, I don’t know what to tell you.  Hope it helps!! ~Jonna~

This happened to me a few years ago. First, we checked the screen at the end of the hose, to make sure it wasn’t clogged. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a switch in the machine, which regulates the incoming hot and cod water. The switch cost $25 (4 years ago)
+ labor for a total of $80. Hopefully, your husband is handy and can replace the switch himself. (Mine was working out of town at the time…) L. Rehrig

Softening Stiff Material

Q.  I am wondering whether any other reader could help me with softening ‘stiff’ material.  I purchased some 65% polyester 35% cotton yesterday to make a couple of dresses.  I was assured by the sales assistant that my concerns over the stiffness of the material would be allayed by washing and that it was just a ‘dressing’ that remained on the material.  I washed both pieces with normal liquid and then a fabric conditioner and hung to dry.  Alas there is no change.  I made one dress up and it feels like wearing cardboard.  What can I do?  Is there a common household solution? Thanks –Natasha

A. A suggestion for making material softer.  Use your dryer instead of hanging it to dry.  The "tumbling" action in the dryer can soften many fabrics. Cathie

A. Put 1/2 cup salt in the rinse water.  or try 1/2 cup vinegar.  the salt usually works.

A. This may not be frugal, but try running it thru a dryer. I hang clothes outside in the summer so I can have that crispness, but even towels are like cardboard if they do not go thru the dryer. This may be the same thing with your poly/cotton. –Good luck! faroe

A. When I leave things out to air dry they always end up stiff.  So now I put them in the dryer when they are almost dry (on low or fluff) this has helped soften them up.  Careful not to use to much heat when you dry, this will slowly dull the colors.

A. This shouldn’t happen after you have both washed and used fabric softener. I would first take the article back to where you purchased the material and ask for a refund. If they refuse, get the name of the fabric manufacturer, write them and explain fully what you used on the fabric.  Be sure to include a swatch of the fabric as proof.  I have found that contacting most companies appreciate hearing from a consumer if there is a problem.  More likely than not, they will replace it.

A. To help soften stiff material, run it through the washing machine (warm wash/cold rinse), using 1 cup of nonfat dry milk in place of your usual soap.  Then use the clothes dryer to dry.  My mother was allergic to the chemicals that kept clothes looking nice on the store racks, and her dermatologist gave her this advice many years ago.

A. Some fabric manufacturers get carried away with the sizing. As a professional historical clothier I have ran into this several times.  I have found that adding a good amount of white vinegar to the the load you wash it in will not only help set any dyes that may run, but will also remove any and all sizing.  Be aware however that if the fabric is shiny it may also remove the shine. Also hanging it out to dry on a very windy day also helps loosen up the fabric.

A.  I have softened fabric in the past by adding about 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the first rinse water.

Taffy In The VCR

Q. My son has mangled our VCR by getting taffy in it.  I reserved a book from the library on VCR repair but won’t have it for a few weeks. I thought I could just clean it out but can you use water? Can you scrub some of those "gadgets" without damaging them? If anyone knows how to repair things like this, please, give me your advise.

My husband is an electronic technician and he says first UNPLUG the machine, then use a q-tip and dab rubbing alcohol on the parts that need cleaning and then let the machine thoroughly dry (minimum of 1 hr.) before plugging back in. Do NOT use water!

In response to the taffy in the VCR… have her long on to It is a website where you can go to find out how to repair different items from small appliances to refrigerators or air compressors. It helps the average person walk themselves through repairing  the product themselves. If all else fails there is ask the expert. Hope that helps.  Debbie J.

Tar On Brick

Q . Recently, my son did some repair work on my house and used tar to seal the space between the house and the wall outside.  He got a lot of the tar onto my brick front porch, please if anyone can come up with a method or product to help me to remove it, I would be most grateful.

A.  We have gotten "tar balls" on the bottom of our feet at the beach and found that Vaseline petroleum jelly was the best solution to remove the tar residue from the skin – hopefully this will work on other surfaces as well – good luck.   Dale

A.  You can dissolve tar by using a little bit of gasoline or paint thinner (mineral spirits) and a scrub brush.  Then wash the area with plenty of soap and water. Please be careful!   This also works for the tar spots on your car from going through construction zones – and from your clothes from working on construction.   Bob & Lorraine

A.  A friend of mine had driven through tar accidentally and got it on the outside of her tires. She used Avon’s Skin So Soft and it came off. I’m not sure how big of an area you are talking about; her wasn’t really huge, but it did work. Ramona

A.  My son is a foreman for a constriction company, which lays tar all day long. I don’t know if or how good this works, but he has told me that Baby Oil works.

A.  I ‘ve learned that trick from my roofer. Scrape thick pieces off and soak the rest with Paint-thinner . It will come right off. I did it on my bricks and it worked beautiful. Iris , California

A.  To remove tar the first part is the hardest–time. Let the tar harden over time.  Any method of freezing the tar will usually speed this up.   After the tar has hardened physically scrape off the tar trying not to disfigure the bricks. Remember that if you use a cleaner, paint thinner for example, the discolored area will get larger and go deeper into the brick. Tar is usually too thick to penetrate brick unless it is a commercial quick drying solution of tar and thinner. If all else fails remove the stained brick and replace with similar bricks, probably from a place that carries used housing materials.If replacing the bricks do not break up and throw away. Remove mortar carefully and simply turns the brick over and remortar in place.  With time and weathering they will be identical in appearance.     If the original brick was sealed, reseal with same sealant. 

A.  Your son can help you.  After all it has been a mutual experience up until now, don’t turn it into punishment.  Life’s lessons learned.  Michael

A.  Mayonnaise removes tar.  Price

A.  In college I use to do roofing work we would clean it up with either wd 40 or gas just have to be careful it my take a few applications. Then just spray it down with the hose.  BC52

Using Simple Remedies for Sick Children (or Adults)

by Donna L. Watkins

1) Insist on lots of rest. Help your child feel as comfortable as possible, but in a resting position. Don’t allow books, games, or TV that will stimulate the body which produces stress on the immune system.

2) Simplify and lighten the diet. Lack of appetite is natural and remember that it takes the same energy to digest a meal as it takes to ride a bike 5 miles, so don’t feed unless hungry and then only small portions of food without much fat or protein.

3) Give plenty of water, especially if there is fever. A child with a fever must be pushed to drink at least a small amount of water or herbal tea (1/4 to 1 cup) each hour or two. Water is needed for the body to ‘flush out’ the dead bad guys.

4) Address any infection that might be present with the appropriate treatment. Treatment will be quickest and easiest if you begin at the first signs of illness, but you can begin using the herbs at any time during the course of illness.

We’ve used herbs for our family. We have personally followed the above guidelines. We would give only water, watered down non-citrus juices, and herbal teas to drink and withdraw food for 24 hours. We would set the timer hourly, through the night if necessary, to feed the soldiers of the immune system.. They are fighting a war with the virus or bacteria present that is causing the illness, so they need to be given ammunition on a regular basis or they will lose the war.

Often people lose the battle when using herbs and nutritional remedies because they administer them just a few times during the day, while trying to maintain the normal schedule without enough rest, and eating foods that weaken the immune system even further.

It takes a common sense approach to make herbs work and also common sense to know when to go beyond using herbs. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Get more information on using herbs for children here

Repainting Appliances

Q.    Do you know if you can paint large appliances such as a refrigerator or range? They’re still in good working condition but don’t match the kitchen decor.

Yes! We did it years ago. Went from Copper to Almond and it worked. We just went to the yellow pages (I don’t remember what category it was under) and let our fingers do the walking. The company came to our house and picked up the refrigerator and left us a loaner.

You can use epoxy paint. I repainted the front panel of a dishwasher and it looked great!  JT

I know I have heard there is a special appliance paint. Perhaps an appliance repair service rep could tell you what and where it is. I’ve know people, too, to have a refrigerator repainted where they paint cars!  Nett

I just saw this on the Discovery channel!   They used a pricey product called ‘ Hammerite ‘  but they also admitted that any durable Rustoleum type paint will work (spray or brush on).   Make sure it is clean.  Take off any trim you can (like refrigerator door handles and hinges).  And paint!   They used a metallic look that was really wonderful!

Buy APPLIANCE PAINT, not cheap but nothing else really works. Follow the directions carefully. It comes in a variety of colors. Check out various sources to compare prices – Large hardware type stores (Home Depot, etc), WalMart and appliance stores. Mary 

I have never tried to paint the kitchen range but have heard that there are heat-tolerant paints that work well. However I have painted the dishwasher and ‘fridge with great success. The procedure was Lightly sand the painted areas until the gloss is gone. Give the appliance 2 thin coats of primer made to adhere to metal.

You can buy paint that is made specifically for appliances. Check your local home store (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.) or contact the manufacturer directly. Most of the major manufacturers have websites that you can order paint and accessories from.  Emily


Restoring Non-Stick Cookware

Q    I seem to remember watching a cooking program on a cable channel years ago. the host was introducing a segment about restoring the "non-stick" to non-stick cookware. The phone rang and I missed the rest of the show. I never saw or read anything since about restoring non-stick pans,etc. I’ve always believed it couldn’t be done. True or false and if false how to do it?       

A.   Can tell you what they recommend before it gets to that point, is to every so often, wipe the non-stick surface with cooking oil on a paper towel. There is some stuff that Presto recommended to me for my non-stick skillet that was sticking right above where the coil underneath was located. Unfortunately can’t remember the name, but it is in the cleaning sections in the supermarket in a little green container.

Restoring Original Paint

Q. I recently purchased a home that was built during the depression. I am having a difficult time finding information concerning the paint and/or wallpaper colors that were used during that time in history. I would like to restore the home to an original state as possible, so ANY information concerning furniture styles and landscaping would be much appreciated. My home is in South Carolina, if geography is relevant to anyone’s information. Thank you! Connie

You might want to try contacting the local or state historical society .  They can usually direct you to the kinds of colors that were used during the period your house was built. They may also be able to help with the type of furniture that was is use then or at least have pamphlets to let you know where to go.  Pam

You  might find information ideas from They have tons of information in every category. I find it most helpful.  Annette

Painting an Old Grill

Q. I was given an old gas barbeque grill. It works fine but I would like to repaint it as the black color is mostly gone. How do I do this? I know I have to use heat resistant paint. Thanks. Shelia

1.Lightly sand it with a wire brush to remove the flakes and thoroughly dust if necessary. 2. Spray paint with heat resistant heat resistant ‘metal’ primer. 3, Spray paint with your choice of color heat resistant paint.   Note: Most home centers carry the products you will need in the Barbecue section.   Note: Be certain to allow enough time for ‘drying’ between coats. When spray painting use a sweeping motion to avoid streaks and drips. It’s always better to apply two or three thin coats rather than one thick coat.  I hope this helps.  Bill

You can just buy a can of spray paint specifically for painting grills in the BBQ section at Wal-Mart. I bought a can but I haven’t gotten that far to actually use it yet, to see how well it works.  Jim

We too have an older grill. We bought a can of BBQ grill paint (black) for about $4 at Home Depot. Was an easy and quick spruce up. Carol 

Go to lowes or hom depot or whatever is in your area. They have the Heat resistant black inspray cans. Buy at least two , cleans the grill really well with a grease cutting liquid. let dry well. sand any rusty spots you notice. then spray and let dry . these sprays work really well and there is  no brushes etc to clean up . P buzbee

To repaint your grill, go to your local home improvement store (ex Lowes/ Home Depot) in the paint department high heat resistant paint in a spray can is available.  Pat

I think you can use stove pipe paint, like you would use for the pipes on a wood burning stove – it is heat resistant, and I think will do a nice job.  Comes is brush or spray.  SimoneWe’ve been snow mobilers for years and have to repaint our mufflers every year. We get heat resistant paint at our local snow mobiling store. (We go to a Yamaha dealer) It comes in a spray paint can and must be used in a highly ventilated location. A can should cost you less than $10.00  Wendy

Gift Jars

One reader mentioned filling jars with ingredients for cookie or cake recipes to give as gifts, I have seen these in stores and yes they are expensive. I would like to make my own also, and decorate the jars and lids with material ribbon etc.  I would love to hear from other readers what recipes they suggest to put in the jars. Thanks and Have a Good Day! Dawn

Last year a friend and I made several of these gift jars.  We got several recipes from for the mixes.  We topped them with material found in the "extras" bin at the fabric store and printed labels from the computer with directions.  Cost was about $1.75 each

Someone was wondering about cake mixes in jars, I copied and pasted the following from www.realfood4realpeople Kaylin Cherry has several great gift-in-a-jar type of ideas. She publishes an  e-zine, consisting of one of her original recipes and many more sent in by subscribers. It’s free and I for one have found it to be wonderful, as most of the’cooks’ are just like the rest of us, on a budget and always looking for good, easy, economical and nourishing food for our families! Check it out! Here is an excerpt! — "Our delicious ‘Cake Mixes in Jars’ are quick, easy, and also a great low-cost answer to your gift giving needs!  Give them to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, bus drivers & even your favorite delivery person!  She also has several collections of recipes that she has compiled for sale on her web site. –Linda

Here’s a link that I use for gifts in a jar. Enjoy!! Terri Smith

Cookie fixings and the recipe are always good, but how  about pasta and spices, a recipe for pasta salad, here are few suggestions:  seeds and fertilizer with a hand trowel, sea salt, essential oil and food coloring…to make your own bath salts, small bird  identification book, wild bird seed and a small pair of binoculars, stocking cap gloves and  hot chocolate or hot cider mix, soft socks , foot scrubber, foot lotion& foot soak or how about  crayons, paint brushes a small note book and a coloring book.    The possibilities are truly endless. Thank You for reading my letter.  –Sheree 

Here is one recipe — you could use any of your own recipes and leave out the wet ingredients for them to add later. I haven’t made these since last Christmas but I was thinking that when I went to make them it was more than would fit in a quart jar and I used a  gallon size ziplock bag to put the ingredients in and taped a bow to it and then they just added the other ingredients in the bag and kneeded it till it was mixed and poured it in the baking  pan.

Today’s recipe is a fun gift to make and give. When I make these as gifts, I always be sure to include the dry ingredient list on the directions card or label, for two reasons. First, in case the receiver really likes the mix, they can duplicate it. And second, they will know what is included in the jar, in case they have any food allergies.

Chocolate Chip Brownies in a Jar
Ingredients in Jar:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp  salt
2 1/4 cups white sugar
2/3  cup cocoa
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Ingredients needed to make brownies:

3/4 cup butter, melted
4 eggs, slightly beaten

Empty jar of brownie mix into mixing bowl, mix well. Add butter and eggs and mix until blended. Spread batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Cool in pan. Cut into 2" squares. Makes 2 doz.

Here are some recipes I use to give as Christmas presents.  They aren’t cookie mixes in a jar, but I have found these to be welcome gifts.

Herb Flavored Salt
1/4 C dried parsley flakes
2 Tablespoons dried basil leaves
1 Tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 C salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend just
enough to combine.  Store in an airtight jar.  (I
usually by small little jars at the dollar store for
this recipe)

Mexican Hot Chocolate Mix
1/3 C brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 C coca
2 1/2 C powdered milk

Combine and blend ingredients in a small bowl.  Store in airtight container.  (I put a tag on the jar with directions to make they are: Mix 3 Tablespoons of the hot chocolate mix with 8 ounces boiling water and stir until smooth) Love and Peace, Kathie

They have tons and tons of recipes for these in the archives at:

This is for Dawn who was looking for recipes for jars to give as gifts.  I found a great website with recipes for jars.   There are lots of good ideas and recipes for gift jars. Thanks, Janet

I belong to an ezine by Kaylin White called Real food for real people. She has a section on her website with many free recipes for mixes in a jar as well as info on how to order more if desired.

This is my favorite because you can make up a single batch and divide it into 5 gifts.

8 Cups all-purpose flour
2-1/2 Cups granulated sugar
2 Cups brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups vegetable shortening

In a large bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda until well blended. With a pastry cutter or heavy duty mixer, cut in shortening until mixture resembles cornmeal in texture. Put in large airtight container. Label with contents and date. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 10-12 weeks. Makes about 16 Cups of COOKIE MIX.

If giving for a gift, place 3 cups COOKIE MIX in a 24 ounce jar, attach the following instructions and cover the lid as follows: Place lid on jar. Use scissors to cut a 9 inch-diameter circle from fabric of your choice. Center fabric circle over lid and secure with a rubber band. Tie on raffia or ribbon bow to cover the rubber band. Attach a card with the following directions:

Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 Tablespoons milk
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 Cup nuts or coconut
1 Cups chocolate chips or chocolate candies

Preheat oven to 375F degrees (190C). Grease baking sheets. In a large bowl, combine  COOKIE MIX, milk, vanilla, and egg. Blend well. Stir in nuts or coconut and chocolate chips or candy. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Makes 24 cookies.

My other favorite is Cake in a Coffee Cup. My son gave these out last year to teachers, office staff at his school, the principal and counselors.

Cake in a Coffee Cup
1 box Cake Mix — (any flavor)
1 package Instant Pudding mix — (4 ounce) make sure flavor compliments cake flavor
8 – 12 ounce coffee mugs — (non-metallic)

Glaze Mix
1/3 cup Powdered Sugar
1 1/2teaspoons Dry flavoring — (see below)

Place dry cake mix and dry pudding mix into a large bowl and blend well with a wire whisk. This will be about 4 – 4 � cups of dry mix and will make 8-9 coffee cup cake mixes. Place � cup dry mix into a sandwich size zip baggie. Smooth baggie so as much air as possible is removed, then seal. Continue making packets until all your dry mix is used.

Lemon cake mix- lemon pudding
Yellow cake mix- chocolate pudding
Devils food cake mix- chocolate pudding
Pineapple cake mix- coconut pudding
Butterscotch cake mix- butterscotch pudding

Select a large coffee cup. Check it to be sure it holds 1 1/2 cups of water. That way you will be sure you have chosen the size the recipe calls for. Your mug cannot have any metallic paint on it because it will be used in the microwave.

**Dry flavorings for glaze: powdered lemonade mix, powdered orange breakfast drink mix, cocoa powder or Vanilla powder.

Select the flavoring appropriate to the cake. For the pineapple coconut cake include flaked coconut in a separate bag with instructions to sprinkle it over the frosted cake. Place the glaze mix ingredients into a snack size zip baggie and remove as much air as possible before sealing. Label this bag "glaze mix" and attach it to the other bag with a twist tie. Place one baggie cake mix & one baggie glaze mix into each coffee cup.

Cut two 16 inch sections of clear or colored plastic wrap and lay them on top of each other forming an `X’ shape, then place mug in center and bring wrap up around them, bringing the top together with a ribbon. Now attach the following baking instructions to each coffee cup:

Bake a cake in a coffee cup! Generously spray inside of coffee cup with cooking spray. Empty contents of large packet into cup. Add 1 Egg White, 1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil & 1 Tbsp. Water to dry mix. Mix 15 seconds, carefully mixing in all the dry mix. Microwave on full power for 2 minutes. (You may not get satisfactory results in a low wattage small microwave). While cake is cooking, place ingredients from "Glaze Mix" into a very small container and add 1 � tsp. Water. Mix well. When cake is done, pour glaze over cake in cup. Enjoy while warm. Mary

I have made quite a few of these jars to give away.   I started out using recipes just for gift jars, but then started just creating my own.   Find recipes that are a good basic recipe and cut the ingredients to make either a 9X9 cake, one quick bread, or one batch of muffins.   I set up the jars like an assembly line and add the dry ingredients with a canning funnel.   A 9" circle of fabric fits nicely over the top.  Secure it with a rubber band then a piece of ribbon with a note card for the directions.   Below are a couple of my favorites – watch out – the brownies are addictive!

Banana Bread Mix
Layer in a quart jar:
1 cup flour
1/3-1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup flour
1 cup dehydrated banana chips
1 cup sugar  

Mix the top layer of sugar with 1/3 cup butter or margarine. Add 2 eggs and mix. Add 2/3 cup water and the rest of the mix. Mix well. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 deg. for 55-60 min or until toothpick comes out clean. Let set 5 minutes, and remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing.  Note: for this, I use only my own dehdyrated bananas – they have not been ‘treated’ as the store bought kind.  

Crazy Cake Mix
Layer in a quart jar:
2 cup flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1-1/3 cup sugar  

This is a Crazy Cake because you mix the cake all together in the pan! Pour contents of the jar into a 9×13 inch baking pan, then add the following ingredients: 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 tsp vinegar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 cups water.
  Stir together using a wire whisk or fork, making certain all the ingredients are completely mixed together. Bake at 350 deg for 35 minutes. Frost as desired or sprinkle with powdered sugar.