Posts belonging to Category Uncategorized

Re-Book It: Easiest and Best Book Donation Option in L.A.

DSC_01031_1600x1066_acf_cropped1-1 If you live in L.A. and you like reading, you’re either a fan of The Last Bookstore or haven’t been there, a terrible oversight you should correct to as soon as possible. Not only is it a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon and find your next great read, they also boast a program, Re-Book It, which collects your unwanted books, keeping some, selling some, and distributing the rest to eager readers throughout Los Angeles. Very convenient if you’re moving or just cleaning house. If you have a few boxes, they offer complimentary pickup. I caught up with Kathy Hazen who kindly answered all my nosy questions about how it works.

1. How do donations to Re-Book It work? Do you guys take Kathy_Hazenwhatever you can sell and then distribute whatever’s left?

Books that can be used directly by other organizations are temporarily warehoused. Particularly valuable volumes are sold elsewhere and the proceeds from the sales are contributed to other non-profits.

Books that are appropriate for The Last Bookstore are shelved in our warehouse and brought into the store as space opens up. The majority of the donated books are sold in the $1 room in The Labyrinth above The JNmagnifyingglasseslargeLast Bookstore, which operates as a community service and makes no profit.

If the books are too tired, worn and/or damaged to be of use to anyone, they are turned over to a recycler.

2. What prompted you to start the program?

The program began as a way to divert books from landfills as well as to serve people who needed help donating their books. Most charities no longer accept books due to oversupply and the high costs of moving large quantities of books. Many people also simply have too many books for them to move on their own! The Last Bookstore has helped put previously unwanted books into the hands of thousands of people in L.A. county.

3. You talk in a general way about redistributing books to hospitals, libraries, etc., but can you break down some specifics for us? What would hospitals want, say, as compared to homeless shelters? Do you work with any organizations that have super specific requests?

A children’s cancer hospital requested books for their young patients to read while undergoing treatments. Many convalescent and rehabilitation facilities request that we restock their reading libraries for patients on an ongoing basis. RBI has provided art books for high school art classes, dictionaries for students in language arts class, and small libraries for many start-up daycare facilities.  We don’t receive many requests from homeless shelters but imagine they would probably want educational, self-help, or fiction.

We are currently compiling sizable donations for new teachers in a low economic community, both for their classrooms and to send home with the students as well. We have provided collections of reference materials for a local Boys and Girls Club for use in their after school program. The requests are quite varied and we are able to fulfill most every need, due to the generosity of the community!

4. Do you accept books written in Spanish?

We do, and Chinese, Japanese, German and Russian – any language!

5. What would you most like to receive that you never get?

We get pretty much everything, but the best books for our purposes are always going to be those that are either current and in like-new condition, or classics in their category.

6. What do you get a lot of that you don’t have much use for?

Textbooks more than five years old! Although the information contained in them doesn’t change, professors require their students to buy updated editions. Also, Harlequin paperback romance novels and ex-library books are not useful to us.

7. I notice your site lists information on how to schedule a pickup but says nothing about dropping books off at The Last Bookstore. Is that an option?

We do not mention it because it is not our preference. We also do not arrange for drop-offs at our warehouse.  We don’t have dedicated personnel in either location to handle them. We offer complimentary pick up for any donor with three boxes of books or more. If a donation is comprised of only a few items I will sometimes recommend they be taken to TLB. It’s also an opportunity for a store visit, which is an event unto itself!

8. If a charity is interested in receiving books from you, should they contact you?

The best way to request books from Re-Book It is to visit our website and submit a Request for Pick-up, just as you would if donating, and write the words REVERSE DONATION in the instruction field (third from the bottom) of the form. Then send a wish list of desired books via email at When both notices are received, your request will be processed.

Thanks, Kathy! I am sorting through my books right now. Hope someone wants my Douglas Coupland rejects, but that might be too much to hope for.



Seven Things You Should Never Buy New

Most people would prefer a new thing over its pre-owned equivalent. The reasons for this tendency range from squeamishness to status consciousness to simple habit. You may never have the commitment or the time to comb through craigslist for the perfect end table. I get it. Even if you do not normally dip your toe in the used market, however, if you have even the tiniest inclination towards practicality and frugality, there are some deals too good to pass up. (Please note the prices cited are based on my experience shopping in Los Angeles, and may vary slightly depending on your location.)

basket1. Baskets. You know that time you got a gift basket of muffins/toiletries/specialty mustard and didn’t know what do with the basket itself? That’s what happens to literally everyone. If you’re got a way with wicker, head to your nearest thrift store. There is no sight more common at Goodwill than a row of baskets near the knick-knack area, and they’re never more than a buck apiece.

2. Ties. There is a certain kind of man who is obliged to wear a tie every day to work. There are many more who wear them only grudgingly to weddings and funerals, tearing them from their necks as quickly as decorum allows. Yet even these men regularly receive ties as gifts. These excess ties often make their way to the donation pile, and are almost always priced at $2.99 or $3.99. Available at all thrift stores.

3. Purses. Most women have a single purse they carry around until it is so worn that shame compels them to replace it. Yet many of those same women have half a dozen other purses stuffed in their closet, barely used, rejected based on style or color or other practical considerations, which they eventually surrender to the world at large. Evening bags or purses in unusual colors* are particularly easy to find. I’ve seen them start as low as $2.99. Available at all thrift stores.

4. Specialty appliances. Shaved ice/panini/pasta makers are often used once or not at all. I got my breadmaker at a yard sale for $5.00. Though it had neither the box or the instructions, I was able to track down this information easily online. This was an especially great deal, as they run at least $50 new, but saving between 50% and 75% off retail on a specialty kitchen appliance is easily done. Larger thrift stores have these, as does your local craigslist if you live in a big city. Buying local (as contrasted with ebay) allows you to avoid shipping charges.

5. Dishes. I believe we’re in a golden age of vintage dishes, because dishesolder generations often had regular dishes in addition to “good” dishes, so there are a lot of sets of china left behind once they pass on. I regularly see nice sets of dishes in near-perfect condition selling for less than a dollar per piece, which is a significant savings on even a new acrylic set from Target. Interestingly, I was looking up a set I just saw at the Out of the Closet here in Venice, and I am quite sure I saw the exact set this woman on ebay was trying to sell and must have failed, and donated them. They are currently available for $35.00 unless someone already snapped them up. Virtually every estate sale has these, as do any upscale thrift stores. (My local Salvation Army has a boutique arm that sells beautiful sets regularly. Maybe yours does, too.)

books6. Bestselling books. Are you a Dan Brown or Nicholas Sparks fan? Lucky for you, you’re not the only one. If you’re not obsessed with getting the latest as soon as it hits the bookstore, you can snap them up for a dollar or two in due time.

7. Wedding Dresses. In this era when it’s common for brides to overextend themselves financially to pay for their big day, they’re often looking to recover a little on the back end. That’s where sites like or Tradesy come in. They’re hardly even used — what are the chances she wore it more than once?

*like rodents of unusual size, for all you Princess Bride fans


All Things Shoes

IMG_20150715_083831444It is always disappointing when a beloved pair of shoes is rendered unwearable. Running shoes can be dropped off with Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, where they are ground up for use as tracks, fields, and playgrounds. Non-athletic shoes, compromised of much more varied materials, are essentially non-recyclable. Luckily, many shoe issues are solvable, and these tips may keep your shoes out of the trash can for a little longer.

1. Stinkiness. My blue flats recently started exuding an unpleasant odor after I went to Vegas. Don’t judge me, it was literally over 100 degrees every single day! I’m a human being, just like you! No big deal. I  put them in a plastic bag, shoved them into my freezer overnight, and Voila! no more stink.

Stuffing newspaper in them for a few days or spraying them with rubbing alcohol reportedly works as well.

2. Surface Wear. If your shoes are a very ordinary color (black or brown), you can generally pick up a tin of shoe polish for around four bucks, though fancier options are available. Aren’t they always!

3. Wear on Soles/Heels. I often extol the value of tailors and cobblers (I know the word has a Grimm Fairy Tale vibe, but that doesn’t take away from its accuracy), and I will continue to do so here. The tips of the heels on women’s shoes are a bargain to replace. I got them done for around $10 on a vintage pair I purchased. The cost of other work varies widely, but if you feel it’s not worth it to spend $20 to repair your shoes, I think you should consider buying better shoes. Quality is always cheaper in the long run.

All shoes wear out over time, but there are many steps you can take to minimize shoes damage before it happens, including keeping them out of hot and dry places, making smart choices of materials for repairs, and having thin rubber soles put on your shoes as soon as you get them.

Side note: when I was a ‘brownie‘ in the 1970s, the third grade launching pad to Girl Scouts, the brownie handbook contained a variation of the Elves and the Shoemaker from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The overall message was that brownies should be like the elves, quietly doing the work of the shoemaker at night and never taking any credit for it. That incredibly sexist message never sat well with me, even as a third-grader, and it annoys me to this day. I never held it against shoemakers, though, who I have boundless affection for.

It does explain why I never went out to join the Girl Scouts.

Big Water


“All water is holy water.” Rajiv Joseph, Animals Out of Paper

Our water filter purification system at work went on the fritz recently, and I was shocked — shocked, I tell you — by the number of my co-workers who refused, even temporarily, to drink the tap water directly from the faucet citing either (a) its bad taste or (b) its questionable safety. This prompted a tirade from me about how if no one was going to use our tap water for drinking, we should let Mexico have it, because they would be thrilled, and that it was pointless to keep it up to FDA standards if we were going to use it solely to flush down the toilets of this great city. This tirade, like most tirades, convinced no one. Even so, I can’t quite let it go.

Bottled water companies have hoodwinked the public, solving a problem that doesn’t exist. For one thing, tap water is more heavily regulated than bottled water. According to the Environmental Working Group, which has studied millions of records from 45 U.S. states, about 44% of bottled water comes directly from the tap, anyway, some of it with no additional filtering. Even if it is filtered, it’s almost always difficult to find out exactly which “contaminants” are being filtered, and why. The upshot of which is: you could be spending 1900 times as much money on your water simply because it comes in a bottle. You can see this list to see how your local municipality compares to others, and what potential contaminants there might be.

What about taste? I concede that I, too, drank the water from the purification system (provided by ChungHo, a company I find dubious based on their Facebook feed citing a Vanilla Ice song alone) because it tastes more refreshing than the straight tap, though I suspect some of its good taste comes from its chilly temperature alone. Variation in local plumbing may account for this. However, study after study shows that people often can’t taste the difference, such as one by Good Morning America showing New York tap was far tastier than any of the bottled water options.

You don’t live in New York? A 2011 study at Boston University which recruited 67 students to drink both tap and bottled water showed that only a third of them could identify which was bottled, a third thought the tap was the bottled water, and the remaining third had no opinion. Correct me if I’m wrong, statisticians, but those results would be the same as random guessing. And what about health considerations? The Earth Sciences department tested both the Vermont Pure and the tap water and found they both met FDA guidelines, though the bottled water contained higher levels of magnesium and calcium, which can potentially affect flavor.

In fairness, I live in L.A., which does have some of our nation’s worst tasting water, and I ran across this BuzzFeed video in which a small but convincing sample size of participants could tell immediately the difference between L.A. tap and the other bottled water. So if you live here and don’t like the taste, you can always get a filter for your faucet or refill those multi-gallon jugs at the supermarket. Surely you can find some option that doesn’t mean buying bottle after bottle of an overpriced, life-giving beverage you can get for almost nothing, lining the pockets of Big Water.


Fun at Haz Mat

haz_matOkay, not exactly fun, but your local hazardous material drop off event is probably coming up soon, and it is a convenient way to rid yourself of dangerous household items and substances that are inappropriate for the trash. Collected items usually include batteries, paint, household cleaners and garden supplies, light bulbs (not incandescents) and electronics. I went to mine several weeks ago and got rid of my growing collection of unwanted items, and it was super easy and efficient. Also, since everyone was dressed up in protective gear, it made it feel more dangerous than it actually was. Exciting!

Why bother? Substances collected at hazardous material events have toxic components that can leach into the ground and water supply if they’re simply chucked in a landfill with everything else. It’s also pretty unpleasant (and potentially unhealthy) for your garbage handler.

Coats for Cubs

Bassarisk_fur_coatUsed clothing chain Buffalo Exchange is sponsoring their annual Coats for Cubs program, where they collect fur apparel and donate it to various animal rehabilitation centers to use as bedding for animals. It sounded kind of weird to me, but once I saw these baby squirrels hanging out on a old fur coat, I was totally won over. They accept donations through Earth Day, April 22nd.

If you have fur coats or hats you would like to donate outside of their drive period, they provide a list of rehab centers to contact.

Dishing It Out

IMG_20150131_142836020You know what sucks? When you break a dish. And you know what sucks even more? When you break a vintage dish that is crucial to your beloved set.

Several months ago, I knocked over my Crooksville creamer from my grandparents’ old set of dishes and broke it. If it were a plate or a cup, it would have been no big deal, because I have many of these. But it was the creamer, of which there was only one. Sure, I could have bought a new creamer and matching sugar bowl. But what about the sugar bowl I already had? Could I really leave it hanging like that?

If this were twenty years ago, I would have visited a few flea markets and then given up in defeat. But in this magical age where anything can be found if you look hard enough, I simply ordered a replacement creamer from Replacements Ltd. It arrived, lovingly packed, about a week later.

I’m not going to lie to you; this wasn’t a completely straightforward process. First I searched for Crooksville items on ebay and came up empty, and then tried a few other sellers of old dishes. But once I found Replacements Ltd. I was able to determine the pattern name (CRO5) and, $19.95 and shipping costs later, I was back in business.

You may lack the commitment and/or non-medical grade OCD to do this research. For that, I cannot fault you. However, if it is a key piece of dishware, it’s totally worth it to save the set.

If you have your eye on a not-quite-complete set of dishes somewhere, it might be worth an advance look at Replacements Ltd or one of the other dish replacement sites to see if you could supplement your purchase and make it work.

Now if only I knew what to do with my broken creamer! If someone near me was working on mosaic project I’d gladly hand it over!

No one likes a pill

IMG_20150127_202730237And that goes double when it comes to your pants! I recently experienced the pain and anguish of realizing that both my beloved pair of purple Nanette Lepore pants and my red BCBG pants were getting unattractively pilly. While I contemplated a sad future of black and brown trousers, I remembered my friend Kim had given me a fabric shaver a few years back. It saved the day on both counts!

Just a reminder that oftentimes your precious items may have a little life left in them when the proper tools are applied.

Going Solar…with Todd Kreisman

10422233_10153002354944557_5642750807133000150_nMy friend Todd Kreisman and his wife recently added solar panels to their Southern California home, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the process.

1. What made you decide to go solar?

We were approached by Zero Energy, who had representatives going door-to-door in our neighborhood and who told us we were qualified for subsidies through Energy Upgrade California.** In the last few months, we’ve had insulation put in our attic and walls, gotten weather stripping, more energy efficient shower head and other devices replaced, etc.

2. Do you own your panels or did you lease them? What are the terms?

The deal was $0 down and then we make a monthly payment so that eventually we’ll own them. The tricky thing is that it’s built into the cost of everything else they did, so I’m trying to figure out how much it was for just the panels… I think it was in the $5k range all together.

3. What were your average monthly summer and winter electrical bills when you were using conventional energy sources? How much of that cost do you anticipate being able to cover with the new panels?

DWP bills were getting pretty insane – in the $300-500 range per two month billing period. Hoping/expecting we can get that down to around $100-150.

4. Are you able to sell your extra energy back to your local provider?

Never heard anything about that mentioned, so assuming no.

5. Were there any surprises about the process that you didn’t anticipate?

Yes. We have a metal roof, and they couldn’t install the panels on top of them. Fortunately for us, the guy who came out originally goofed and said they could do it, so when it came time to install them, I ended up being put in contact with the (I think) CEO of Zero Energy who said it was their bad, and they were going to pay to have another company come out and re-tile that portion of the roof so that the panels could be installed. There were also some major delays in getting the work done (we initially signed up for these in September and they were finally installed this month.)

**Note that it appears that subsidies for solar panels appear to be exhausted. Will look into this further, but I know the state periodically funds these upgrades, companies like Zero Energy aggressively market to homeowners until the subsidies are gone, and then you typically have to wait for the next round. I tried the subsidy finder for my zip code and came up with nothing. However, there is still a relevant tax credit available.

Thanks, Todd! Would love to get an update in six months or so to see how your new bills compare.


If you live in one of four counties in northern California (Sonoma, Alameda, San Francisco, or Marin) and would find it useful to know about local food surpluses that may be available for you for free, I highly recommend CropMobster. This is a great service for food banks who distribute to the hungry public, provided you can handle the sudden influx of 200 pounds of ripe tomatoes! Sign up for alerts on social media to keep updated!

The same goes, obviously, if you might have half a ton of cucumbers of 100 chickens to give away.

They also list farm jobs, potential barter opportunities, and thematically-related events!