Monday, December 29, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - Christmas Week

I hope this is coherent.  I have a cold, mostly in my chest, and I am spending a lot of my time napping and coughing.

Husband transferred a prescription to Kmart, which earned us a free $25 gift card.  We picked up some TP that was on sale for a good price and a pair of house slippers ($5 off!) to keep by the back door for when we have to take puppy out to potty.  (If you don't watch her, she will just run and play and 'forget' why she's outside.)

We had a really nice Christmas!  From the beginning, we have taught Daughter that second-hand gifts in good repair are perfectly fine.  She did some of her Christmas shopping at Goodwill this year.  I got some of her gifts from a local buy-sell-trade page on Facebook.  Grandma and Grandpa sent her an amazing electric keyboard they got from a friend.  What really amazed me was the small amount of packaging we had for recycling - yay!

Daughter got me this box of crayons for Christmas - she found them at Goodwill,
and they were just what I had asked for!.  Only a few of the crayons had been used,
and those had been used very little.  As it turns out, there were 144 crayons - we think
someone had added a 24-pack to the box.
I made lots of different treats for Christmas - cookies, cheese balls, an onion tart, jalapeno poppers, egg rolls, etc. Most things, I made 1/2 to 1/3 of a recipe.  This worked out really well, because I didn't use up a lot of butter, cream cheese, etc., and we were not overwhelmed by leftovers.  I needed baking mix (think bisquik) for a couple of items this week, so I made a half batch, using unbleached flour, sea salt and coconut oil, in hopes of making it just a little bit healthier.

When we were in the Kroger affiliate store, we picked up this week's and last week's freebies - a 2 liter of Sierra Mist and a double-size bag of Malt-o-Meal cereal.

We used a coupon for a free combo meal when we went to lunch on Friday.  We shared the side and drink - the three of us had a nice lunch for less than $4.

When we were in town doing errands, we stopped at Harbor Freight and picked up some freebies that were available with coupons - two flashlights and a 12-pack of batteries!

We needed some cough-suppressant (there is a head and chest cold working its way through the family).  When we went to the store, we saw that there was a mail-in rebate for Delsym cough medicine, making it free except for sales tax, so we purchased that and sent in the rebate.

Meanwhile, I was getting nowhere with healing this cough I have.  Some Facebook friends suggested I try Thieves Oil Blend of essential oils.  I didn't want to go out, but I did a web search for recipes.  I found one I could make from essential oils I had on hand (mostly - it called for cinnamon bark and I used cinnamon leaf).  I am still coughing, but feeling some better each day.  I smell a little bit like dark fruitcake!

We heated with wood to save on propane use.  We normally use wooden clothes racks to dry the laundry to reduce electricity usage, but this week, I used the dryer.  The colder temperature aggravates my cough, and the basement is unfinished - cool enough to set off a coughing fit.

I printed a simple arrangement of Ode To Joy for free from  It is a challenge, but do-able - perfect for me!  I have not taken lessons, but I am trying to learn piano.  Daughter is teaching me some, since she is taking lessons.  There are free lessons on the site as well, according to the heading at the top of the home page.

I added some soap slivers to my soap sock.  It's a toddler sock from when Daughter was little, and I put all the little soap scraps in it, then  use it as my bar of soap in the shower.  I sewed elastic into the opening, so the scraps don't fall out.

My youngest hens have begun to lay eggs.  We went for a few months without any from our hens, and we are enjoying them very much.  Right before they began to lay, I bought 3 dozen eggs when they were on sale, so I need to figure out something soon that will use more than one or two.

I hope your Christmas week was wonderful, and everything you wished for!  Thanks for reading - if you're feeling chatty, leave a comment and let me know how your week has been. :)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Week Dinners

It's that time of year when things get fancy, isn't it?  Rack of lamb....pretty rice pilafs with fruit and nuts...glistening poached pears in a reduced balsamic.... at our house.

We eat fairly simple meals, even at the holidays.  That's not to say that I won't make a few treats (I made baklava last week!), but I really want to spend Christmas loving on my family.  So, with that in mind, here is our dinner menu for the week:

M - taco salads, fresh pineapple

T - ham steak, spicy apple chutney, mashed potatoes, carrots & cabbage, sliced apples

W - spaghetti w/marinara & Parmesan, steamed broccoli, sliced oranges

R - appetizers and treats!  This has become a Christmas tradition of sorts for us.  I take requests and I make ahead where I can.  We don't do a formal sit-down meal.  We are up very (very!) early, so I will make a simple breakfast whenever we are ready.  After that, all bets are off for meals -  we simply snack throughout the day.  Believe me, no one goes hungry!  This year's treats include homemade eggrolls and sauces, a couple of homemade (mini) cheese balls and crackers, sliced Muenster, buffalo chicken dip, a veggie tray, savory onion tart squares, jalapeno poppers with jalapeno-peach drizzle, sliced apples and caramel dip, sliced oranges and three kinds of cookies.  Mercy.  Because there are just three of us, I only put out a little bit of each thing.  It's kind of fun!

F - We are likely going out for lunch.  Supper will be assorted leftovers.

S - homemade biscuits w/homemade sausage gravy (I made the sausage too!), hash browns, eggs to order, green beans, sliced oranges

S - Asian style turkey lettuce wraps, fresh pineapple

What about you?  Are you making special family favorites?  Traveling to see family or friends?  What is your plan for this week?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

I made croutons from a loaf of wheat bread.  I just cut them into cubes, then drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, oregano, basil and garlic.  I bake them in a 250 degree oven until nearly dry, stirring occasionally, then turn it up to 350 and set the timer for 5 min.  When the timer goes off, I turn off the oven, but leave the croutons inside.  This way, they are nicely toasted without scorching.

homemade baklava - Husband took this to share with his co-workers.
We went to the library for a free paper crafting program.  While we were there, we returned the books that were due and checked out some new ones.  I also picked up some Christmas music from the Friends of the Library sale.  I can listen to Christmas music on the radio for free, but if I hear Santa Baby one more time, I fear my head might the $2 spent for 6 music CD's was worth it to me.

We used our wood stove to supplement heat and use less propane.  Also, I learned of a new propane company that we are going to try.  Their price is good, plus they will fill the little grill tanks at my house!  I am paying for the fuel with a card that will give me $150 rebate, once I've spent a certain amount on the card.  We are paying our bills with the card (and then just paying the card off at the end of the month).  The rebate makes the propane that much more affordable.  Yay!

I sold some items on a local Facebook buy-sell-trade page.

There were some good grocery sales this week.  Fresh pineapples were .98 each, and they are one of our favorite fresh fruits.  We also got some jalapenos for .69/lb and cream cheese for $1 per half-pound block.  I am stocking up on cream cheese to last a while, before the sales end.  I got a 10 lb. sack of Idaho potatoes for 99 cents.  This is the third time potatoes have been on sale for that price this season.

At Target, there was a deal with a $5 Target gift card as a reward.  I purchased 4 Suave Kids products for about $7, got the gift card, and used it to purchase 15 lb. of unbleached all-purpose flour.  The Suave products worked out to cost about 50 cents each after the gift card.

Husband's work gave each employee a ham for Christmas.  It will make many meals for us.  I wrapped up 7 packages and put them in the freezer, and I believe that several of those meals will feed us more than once.

Lana, who comments here regularly, let me know that Coca-Cola's reward program had expanded the offer for 12-packs of soda in cans.  I had some points, many of them from the freebies I had gotten from Coca-Cola, which I used to get more free soda.  I'll receive the coupons in a few weeks, by mail.  Thanks, Lana!

puppy pie crust

I made another batch of home-made puppy pie crust.  It's a dog treat recipe that I roll really thin, then cut into wee squares for training.  Taffy loves them, and they are really affordable to make.  We mix them with snipped bits of bacon-flavored dog treats (that we buy) in the little blue treat jar.

Husband used points he earned on Swagbucks and Bing to get e-gift cards for Walmart and Domino's Pizza.  (Thank you, Sweetie!)

I made some small batches of 'bark' for our Christmas candy.  All of the ingredients were items we already had on hand.  I purchased the almond bark and chocolate bark post-holiday for 75% off and stored it until needed.  I made chocolate-pretzel-peanut, white chocolate-almond-dried fruit and white-chocolate-peppermint.  It was fun experimenting, and making small amounts of each means we won't waste them (or have too much!)

When it came time to wrap gifts, I used papers and accents (bows, ribbons, tags, etc.) that we had on hand.  I have not purchased wrapping materials in several years, and we still have some remaining.  I also re-used a gift bag and tissue paper that I had saved from a previous year.  Whenever we run low on wrapping supplies, I will look for post-holiday sales....or maybe just use other items that repurpose what we already have.  This year I wrapped homemade soap with strips of pretty fabric and some pretty yarn, for example.

I used a $5 off a $10 or more purcahse coupon from Ace Hardware to get three bottles of lye for 1.82 per 1 lb. bottle.  I am a soap maker, and this is enough for me to make about 7  batches of soap.

I attended 'Happy Needles' - for the fellowship, and started a new crochet project, made from yarn I had on hand.

I hope you had a good week too!  I'm eager to learn about it! :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dinner Menu - Week of Dec. 15

I haven't posted a dinner menu in a while, though we have planned and eaten from a menu.  It has been a busy time with homeschool, Christmas preparation, etc., but I am more caught up for now - here is this week's dinner menu:

M - cheese enchiladas w/homemade enchilada sauce, shredded lettuce and tomato, calabacitas (similar to zucchini) with onions and corn, sliced oranges

T - kahlua pork, turmeric rice, homemade kimchee, glazed carrots, sliced apples

W - Asian chicken (we'll be using turkey) salads with toasted almonds, celery, carrots, mandarin oranges, chow mein noodles and romaine, homemade dressing, home-canned plums

R - homemade chili w/turmeric rice, sliced oranges

F - carryout pizza, salad w/homemade Cesar dressing and croutons, sliced apples

S - chicken (turkey) and broccoli in spicy peanut sauce, whole wheat noodles, plums from Wednesday

S - ham steaks w/home-canned apple chutney, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and cabbage, sliced apples

I have some things prepped already - when I make enchilada sauce it makes enough for two meals, and I have a meal's worth in the freezer.  The kahlua pork and the mashed potatoes just hve to be thawed and re-heated too, and the kimchee is already made.  I need to make the Asian dressing for Wednesday, croutons and Cesar dressing for Friday, the turmeric rice for twice this week,  We have read about the health benefits of turmeric, and decided that we'll add it to our rice.  Turmeric's flavor isn't that strong, so we are hoping to gain some health benefits without a major change.  We are also trying to incorporate more vegetables and fresh fruits in our meals, just for overall health and nutrition.

I get to make baklava this week too, for a potluck at Husband's work, and I'm likely to pop some popcorn for snacking at home.  We have lots of apples and oranges on hand, and we just bought a 6-pack of romaine at Costco, so Daughter and I will probably have salad for lunch a time or two.  What's on the menu at your house this week?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments

I gave Husband a haircut, and also trimmed my and Daughter's bangs.

We already had the ribbon and the red poinsettias, and the wreath itself is about 10 years old.    
I use this same wreath every year at Christmas time, but I put different things on it.  (I just attach items with wire so they can be removed as needed.)  This year I spotted these burlap poinsettias at Dollar tree, so I splurged and spent $2.  The other items were things I had on hand.  We have not bought Christmas decorations this year, other than the poinsettias above - we save items and use them year to year.

Our little 'front porch' tree graces the flowerpot.

Most years, I hang this sign indoors, but this year is is a front porch greeting.

I made some greeting cards - half are stamped "Thinking of You" and half are stamped "Thank You".  I used supplies I had on hand.  I finished the gift tags for the gifts for our neighbors, too!

All three of us went to the dentist for our six-month check and cleaning.  There is no charge for this visit, though we do pay some for the dental coverage.

I made Christmas gifts to give to friends and neighbors.  Since some of them read here, that's all I will say for now.  Perhaps I can share more later. :)

I am fond of brewing chocolate - it is much like coffee, except instead of coffee beans, you brew ground cacao beans...or nibs, or whatever that is.  The leftover grounds are fully edible, and I mixed a cup of them into muffins this week.  It tastes chocolatey, and the texture is similar to having nuts in the baked goods.  We have also successfully used them in brownies.  I hear the grounds are good in smoothies, so I'll have to try that some time too.

We took our 20 year old truck in for a repair and new brakes.  And by new brakes, I mean new pads, a new caliper, new drums and shoes....and then re-packed wheel-bearings....and then a few days later, replaced the bearings on one wheel.  Mew.  We paid with a credit card that offers cash back and also had a reward offer, saving us over $150.  Also, in the long run, keeping our sweet little truck running is much cheaper than replacing it.  It has been really reliable and I hope we get to drive it for another 20 years!

I am just over halfway through this novel, and I can hardly put it down.
Illuminations:  a Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen by Mary Sharratt.
We borrowed books and media from our library.

I did a fair amount of scratch cooking and we utilized leftovers.

There were a couple of good deals at the supermarket.  My favorite - navel oranges 10/$1 - I bought 20 and might buy more!  We got Mexican squash (calabacita) for .79 a pound, broccoli for .98 a pound and butter for $1.99/lb.  I paid .29 per half-pound of cream cheese too.  This was with a coupon, and I was able to get four of them.  Milk was 1.99 a gallon and we bought a pound of cottage cheese for .99 as well.

I re-visited an old hobby of mine - quilling.  Daughter is really interested in it as well, and we have been spending time together making things.  She is not usually interested in my 'crafty stuff', so I am happy that we have found one we both enjoy.  I purchased a starter kit when I was out with my friend on Black Friday.  I think I can make a quilling needle myself so that we each have our own, since we often want it at the same time.  I will share some of our work soon.

I purchased a couple of Christmas gifts second-hand, but in like-new condition.  They are for a member of the immediate family, and this is something we do regularly.

Free lotions - two lemon, one coconut lime, one peach mango.  
I mentioned last week that Kohl's had sent me a post card coupon for $10 off a $10 or more purchase.  These lotions were $6, but on sale for 2.49 each - for 13.5 oz. bottles.  All four were entirely free.  With dry winter weather, these will be much appreciated.

Husband used his earned points on Swagbucks to get a $5 Domino's e-gift card.

How was your week?  Did you find some ways to spend less, save more and make do?  Are you busy with holiday preparations?  Leave a comment and tell me what you're busy with these days!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - First Week of December

Hello, Dearies!  I hope you're having a wonderful December and getting done what needs to be done!  We have been busy-ish, without it being too hectic.  Here are the frugal accomplishments for the week.  I hope they help you come up with ideas for ways to spend less, save more and make do!

We checked out books and media from the library.

I received a coupon from Coca Cola for a free 12-pack.  There was a flash sale several weeks ago, and this coupon was available for only 30 points.  I am saving it, waiting for a buy one, get one free type sale, to see if I can stretch it even further.

Kohl's sent me another $10 of a $10/more purchase card.  They must really love me.  :)

120 oatmeal-raisin (and craisin) cookies.  If you put the raisins (and craisins - yum)
in the food processor and pulse them a few times,
you get smaller bits of fruit that don't puff and scorch.  
We signed up to bring snacks to Awana.  I baked oatmeal cookies and popped popcorn.  My friend loaned me some big Tupperware containers (two gallon ones!) to transport the popcorn.  I really appreciate this - I didn't have anything large enough.  We took four gallons of home-popped popcorn and 10 dozen oatmeal cookies.  There were leftovers (whew!  I was worried it wouldn't be enough!), so back at home, we had popcorn for snack a couple of times, and I put most of the cookies into the freezer for a little closer to Christmas time.

Bath and Body Works sent me a coupon for a free full-size item.  Daughter chose a nice lotion, which we wrapped up and gave to her teacher when we saw her at the aquarium field trip.  I didn't sign up for this coupon....and I haven't shopped there in a very long time, so we're not exactly sure why they sent me this coupon...just grateful!

If you shop at Amazon, you might want to check your offers.  They sometimes have a free Prime membership (three months, I think) and are currently offering $70 in Amazon credit (an e-gift card) to some people - if you apply and qualify for their credit card.  Be sure to read all the details and see if there is something there that will help pay for Christmas or other things you might need.

We used sales and coupons to get good prices on a few pantry staples, including Progresso soups (.50 a can) , C and H cane sugar (.99 for 4lb.) , and Kraft mayo (1.49 for 30 oz.).  I also got three tubes of Colgate toothpaste (6.4 oz) for 8 cents (total) after sale price and coupons were applied.

We washed the car at home, so we didn't have to pay anything, plus the runoff water helped to water the grass near the henhouse.  The headlights had become cloudy.  Did you know that you can shine them up with Brasso brass polish and a soft cloth?  In my case, it was an old sock, and they shined up quite nicely.  I was really happy with the results.

Daughter and I spent a lot of our time at home, rather than doing a lot of running around and errands.  It saves fuel and makes better use of our time.

I stocked Daughter's advent calendar with small treats I saved back from Halloween.

I don't even know how to photoshop - these are the actual colors!
Daughter's virtual school had a field trip for 3rd-5th graders at the Denver Downtown Aquarium.  There were significant discounts on admission and parking, and it was scheduled for a day when Husband was off work, so we went as a family.  There was a shark class for the students, then we toured the entire aquarium.  It was a nice field trip!

These moon jellyfish are illuminated with colored lights.
Hi, my name is 'Ray'.  I could go for a snack....
'Ray's'  favorite snack.
....nom, nom, nom....

I had lasagna on the menu this past week.  I learned (after having started the meal prep) that I didn't have any lasagna noodles.  I used wide egg noodles instead, and we actually liked it better.  Lasagna noodles rarely go on sale, so we will just use the wide noodles instead from now on.

We planned and prepared several meals to use the remaining Thanksgiving turkey - barbecue chicken (turkey) pizza with bacon and onions, turkey sandwiches, turkey-potato-onion hash and a turkey-vegetable soup, which Daughter made.  We're out of Thanksgiving turkey now, and we're OK with that, hee hee.  When all was said and done, I made more stock from the bits and bones.

When I put the turkey leg bones in the crock pot, the lid wouldn't fit.
Problem solved!  (I am disproportionately happy about this discovery!)

We opened canned fruit two times this week.  I drained off the syrups and used them to help sweeten some fruit punch that I made.

I used homemade laundry soap to wash our clothes.  It's been cold this past week so I've hung the laundry on wooden racks in the basement.  This coming week looks like it will be warmer so I can hang clothes outdoors!

Well, that's what I remember.  How was your week?  What did you do to spend less, save more and make do?  I'd love to learn from you in the comments - have a great week!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - Week of Thanksgiving

Nine pints of poultry stock.
There are two weekends included in this posting, so it's a long one!!

Last weekend, my girlfriend invited me along to a clothing swap at our school district's virtual academy.  I didn't really expect to find anything, but I was wrong!  I got a pair of gray jeans and a silk scarf for myself and a western shirt, tank top and a sweater for Daughter.  There were lots of nice items available, and many happy families getting clothing.  That same friend shared some clothing that she no longer needed, some for me and some for Daughter.  I am going to try my best not to wear the green sweater she gave me every. single. day.  (It's so pretty!!)

On our family town errand day, we went to the new 'outlet' Goodwill.  It was....interesting.  There are big shallow bins full of clothing, small appliances, toys, etc.  You have to rummage through and find what you want.  The items are sold by the pound (most items are .89 per pound).  They wheel out new bins every 15 minutes or so, and when they wheel them out,  no one is allowed to touch them until they say 'go'.  From what we gathered, this is because there were issues with people being too aggressive, but what we saw this day was just a lot of hovering and waiting over the newly released items.  We didn't really participate in that part of the experience, and stayed by the 'older' bins.  We spent about $7.50 and got quite a few things.  Daughter got a foam-coated baseball bat, a Ty stuffed kitty and a long stuffed snake, both like new.  She also got a sweater and a really nice nice that I have joked about trading with her.  I found a vintage teacup and saucer, a chicken wire basket, a shopping bag and a North Face backpack, and Husband found a 4 cup coffee maker.  Everything cleaned up nicely.  I made some minor repairs to the backpack as well.  At another Goodwill store, Husband got jigsaw puzzles to send to his parents, and we got a big, heavy dog dish for outside water.  Taffy has managed to upend everything I've put outside with water in it.  Hopefully, this one will solve the problem for $1.99!!

We are watching the local grocery sales and stocking up when there is a really good deal.  This past week we got 10 pound bags of potatoes for .99 and onions for .39 a pound.  I also found avocados for .50 each.  We combined a sale and coupons to get Chex mix for Husband's snacks at .50 per bag.  We paid .99 for a head of romaine lettuce, too!

It is cold again, so we are heating with our wood stove.  This saves us a lot of expense for propane.  We get the wood free, then cut it and split it to size.

I sold a few household items on a local buy-sell-trade page on Facebook.  They were items we no longer needed, and will be useful for their new owners as well.  win-win!

blueberry muffins
I did a fair amount of scratch cooking this week.  One to try, if you never have, is oven fries.  All I do is scrub the potatoes, slice them into fries (we like them skin-on but you can peel them if you want).  Rinse and drain, then drizzle with a little oil to coat the potatoes.  I spray the pan with nonstick spray, sprinkle it with a little salt and then add the potatoes to the pan.  I bake them at 425 degrees, turning every so often with the spatula.  They will brown and crisp toward the end of cooking.  The time to cook depends upon how thick the fries are, how many are in the pan, etc.  Ours are medium thick and take about 30-40 min., but we are at high altitude, and everything takes longer to cook.  The fries are super tasty - great potato flavor - and you can add other spices and seasonings of your choice!

To make some space in the freezer, I thawed, then canned, 9 pints of chicken/turkey stock.  I had a little left over, so I used it in place of water in the Mexican rice I made this week.

I have been debating getting a carpet cleaner for a few years, but decided it is time.  I think that by having one here at home, I can clean a single room, instead of renting one and trying to do all the rooms at once (there are not enough hard surfaces to hold all the furniture for that!)  I looked them up on consumer reports (free via our library website) and then polled my fellow homemaker friends.  My friend Lana suggested that I put it on my 'wish list' on Amazon (they had the best price) and watch the price for a bit.  We started at $ went down to $119...then up to $160...then back to $119.  Meanwhile, someone put one on a local buy-sell-trade page on facebook, free to a good home.  It does not have the attachments, but I can order those if I want them.  Free is a great price!

On Thursday, Husband said that he wouldn't mind getting a good smoker second-hand, and asked me if they ever have them on the buy-sell-trade page.  I told him they rarely do, and when they do, they are gone in a flash.  Friday, someone posted one - parents had moved away, and the smoker needed a good home.  We picked it up Saturday.  It needs to be wire-brushed on the outside and painted with high-temp paint (which we have).  The inside is in excellent (but dirty) condition.  I told him, Merry Christmas!, hee hee.

We got books from the library.  I also chose some magazines from the free bin by the entrance.  I will return them when I'm done with them, so someone else can have a turn.

I accepted a free subscription to Redbook magazine from Mercury Magazines.  I know it's a women's magazine, but I haven't read it since I was a little kid and used to read my mom's.  Whether it's a 'fit' for me or not, I'll take them to the library when I am done with them.

I participated in a survey for Pinecone Research and earned $3.

My friend invited me to go Black Friday shopping with her, and I did!  We left around 5am.  It was kind of fun, in a sleepy sort of way.  I got some craft supplies for 50% off.

Our dozing puppy is growing like a weed!
We did some shopping on Small Business Saturday.   If you have an American Express card/account, you could sign up for $10 in rebate (on a purchase of $10 or more) at up to three participating small business retailers.  Husband and I both signed up (we have separate accounts), so we received a total of $60 in savings.  We purchased dog food and chicken feed at the feed store, then we each did a transaction at the Asian market and stocked up on dark sesame oil, seasoned rice vinegar, nori and some produce.  We had lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant and Husband got a tasty liqueur to make special beverages for the holidays.

After our tasty Chinese food, we checked out the newly opened Goodwill retail outlet.  This is not the one I mentioned above, it is a standard retail store.  It seems like when they open a new location, there are a lot of really nice items.  We found new and like-new boots and coats for everyone, along with a couple of books for daughter and a photo frame.  We are set for a while!

Our kitchen stove had been acting up.  The burner I use the most wasn't lighting from the spark, so I was using one of those long, rod-type lighters to light the burner.  We thought about having a repair person out...we even looked at new stoves.  One night after supper, we pretty well tore the stovetop apart.  Husband noticed that the spark ignitor on that burner was slightly different from the others.  He made a temporary adjustment and it began to work much better.  He ordered the part on Amazon (paid for it with Swagbucks!) and replaced it when the part arrived.  Meanwhile...the back of the stove was looking worn - it is black paint over aluminum and there were places where the silver showed through at edges.  I cleaned it really well, then colored over the silver parts with a black sharpie.  Then I wiped it down and polished it with furniture polish.  Now it works great and looks better too!