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A Letter From Kate

Dear Readers,

I love finding a bargain, but then, doesn't everyone? When I walk into one of my favorite stores and see clearance racks, I get a little rush. As I dig through the sale items and find things I like, my pulse actually starts racing, especially if it's a really good sale. I enjoy the items I buy on sale even more, just knowing that I saved money.

When I was in college, I worked at a large bookstore, and employees received a discount on everything in the store. It was wonderful to buy books and music at much-reduced prices, and the discount came in handy when I shopped for holiday and birthday gifts for my friends and family. After I graduated, I quit working at the bookstore, and I greatly missed that discount. To this day, I find it difficult to pay full price for books and CDs.

Now, I find most of my bargains at store clearance sales and garage sales. One of my favorite garage-sale finds was a lovely silver and amethyst ring for just $1. I also found an adorable set of ladybug bookends for my daughter's room for $2. Part of the fun of going to garage sales is the thrill of the hunt for a bargain!

My father-in-law, Jim, loves to go to garage and estate sales and auctions. He often finds great things at ridiculously low prices, and he shares his bargains with his family. The entire dining room of my house is furnished with Jim's estate-sale finds. The antique dining table and china hutch have the look of well-cared-for furniture that makes a house a home.

This summer, check out a few garage sales and see what treasures you can find. Happy bargain hunting!

Kate Marchbanks

Together With God

I am not a shopper, I am a bargain hunter, and there's a difference. Shopping involves malls and credit cards, and usually involves far too much energy just to realize that I can't afford what I'm trying on. I much prefer hunting in bargain stores, yard sales, flea markets and charity bazaars.

It's too bad we can't get a bargain on everything - especially life. But, as we all know, life holds no bargains and no guarantees. The challenge of finding the bargain - at the flea market or in life - gives us excitement for the day. For example, recently I had a back operation, and as much as that was no bargain and definitely an interruption in my routine of life, I learned something very important.

I found that I am a blessed and loved person from all the cards, flowers and well wishes I received. Before it happened, I had begun to doubt myself - and my worth to others. So was it a bargain? You bet!

Father, thank You for providing a life that is filled with changes, interruptions and happiness. Bless all those who take a moment to brighten someone else's life with even the simplest joy of sending a card. May we all find that we have worth in our lives and that others love us. Amen.

D. Susan Rutz


Proud of thrift shop bargain

We were living in Phoenix in the 1970s, and my husband and I enjoyed going to thrift shops. It was so much fun seeing timeworn merchandise that reminded us of our childhoods, and sometimes we purchased items that proved to be very useful.

It was on one of these occasions I was rummaging through some old belts and found a woman's western belt. The buckle was very tarnished. I liked the design, so I purchased it for 25 cents.

The next day I decided to clean up the buckle. I painstakingly brushed, wiped and polished until it sparkled like new. After examining it thoroughly, I decided that the buckle looked like it may have some gold and silver to it, so I took it to a jeweler friend and asked him to appraise it.

Much to my surprise, he said it did contain gold and silver, and he appraised it as being worth around $20. I never did sell this treasure and used it to complement my western wear for many years. I received many compliments on its beauty.

Galena, Mo.

Special treasures cost very little

Like most people I look for bargains in stores, in newspaper ads and, of course, at thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales. The best bargain I made was the time I purchased a Mary Hadley bean pot at a garage sale for 50 cents. I paid and left quickly. Then I checked at the store that sold Mary Hadley pottery and found the price of a new one was $42.95.

This bean pot has had quite a history since it came into my possession in the mid-1970s. The artwork is of a cow done in a primitive style. I used the bean pot as a cookie jar until 1990, and then as I was moving I decided to give it as a birthday gift. I filled it with doughnuts and gave it to a friend who collected Mary Hadley dishes.

She was pleased, and for my birthday she gave me a crystal salad bowl etched with an E (the initial of my fiance's last name). It happens that the letter E was the initial of her previous husband, and she hadn't wanted to just discard the bowl.

The happy ending: We both have a treasure that we use and that reminds us of our special friendship, even though we now live nearly 1,000 miles apart. Never underestimate the worth of 50 cents.

Kansas City, Mo.

Found her favorite shirt in an unlikely place

The most rewarding bargain I ever got was free from a stranger. No, I do not live on the street, and I am known to pay my own way, even generously supporting church and charities. In fact, I was looking for items to donate to church when I got this fantastic bargain.

It was a balmy Saturday afternoon years ago as I was driving home from grocery shopping, when I drove by a house that obviously just ended a garage sale. A huge pile of clothes, some in boxes, was placed by the street with a 'free' sign nearby. I thought, Monday is trash pick-up, and I bet this will all go to the landfill.

I decided to stop, rummage through, and select some items to send to the Good Shepherd Mission that our church supports. There were some clothes my size, and not being proud, I decided to take them home. If I didn't like them, I would send them to the mission.

I had a trunk full of clothes, which I laundered, sorted and bagged to send off, except for one shirt. It was a pink, long-sleeve shirt with a cat design. It fit perfectly and was so comfortable. I wasn't sure how I would be greeted in my 'new' shirt. It was overwhelming, I got so many compliments.

At first when friends asked where I got it, I told them the whole story. Years later, I just said I got it at a garage sale. My family knows the whole story, and I try not to wear it at family gatherings when pictures will be taken. My older grandchildren are famous for looking at pictures and informing me when I've worn the same outfit that I wore 10 years ago.

There are times in this town of 5,000 people that I wonder if the person who 'gave' me the shirt has seen me wearing it. Perhaps she is the stranger in the super center who said to me, 'I sure do like your shirt!

Paola, Kan.

It's a small world

Many of us have been somewhere away from home and happened to see someone we know or used to know. These chance meetings leave us with the feeling that this is indeed a small world.

Have you ever run into someone you knew when you were far from home? Where were you when it happened? Did there seem to be a reason for you meeting that person? Please tell us about your small world stories.

Send your letters to Kate Marchbanks, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265.


Spectacular desserts will be highlight of holiday feast

As you're planning your Fourth of July celebration, don't forget to include some show-stopping desserts. Using colorful ingredients such as blueberries, cherries and strawberries gives desserts a patriotic flair.

The magic ingredient of sweetened condensed milk makes desserts foolproof and delicious, so they'll likely become an annual Independence Day tradition. Plus, these recipes are so simple to prepare that you'll be able to get outside and enjoy the festivities yourself. Try them all, and you may hear more 'oohs' and 'ahhs' coming from guests at the dessert table than you do at the fireworks display!

Delicious, homemade ice cream will be a hit at any gathering.

Easy Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

In an ice cream freezer container, combine all ingredients; mix well. Freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze leftovers.

Refrigerator-Freezer Method: Omit half-and-half. In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and vanilla; stir in strawberries and food coloring. Fold in 2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream, whipped. Pour into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or other 2-quart container. Cover; freeze for 6 hours, or until firm. Store leftovers, covered, in freezer. Yields about 1 1/2 quarts.

Fresh fruit is a colorful topping for this pie.

Fresh Fruit Cream Cheese Pie

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Pour mixture into prepared pie crust.

Chill for 3 hours, or until set. Arrange fruit on top of cream cheese mixture. Just before serving, brush fruit with corn syrup. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator. Yields one pie.

This impressive-looking trifle is very easy to make.

- Eagle® Sweetened Condensed Milk
TERRIFIC TRIFLE: Berry Patriotic Trifle looks impressive, yet it's easy to prepare.

Berry Patriotic Trifle

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 package (4-serving size) instant lemon-flavor pudding mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 loaf (10 3/4 oz.) frozen pound cake, thawed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
1 3/4 cups fresh blueberries
Star Garnish, recipe follows, optional

With a mixer, beat sweetened condensed milk, pudding mix and milk in a large bowl. Fold in sour cream. Chill for 5 minutes.

Set aside 1/4 cup pudding mixture. In a 2- to 2 1/2-quart clear glass bowl, layer half of the pound cake pieces, half of the remaining pudding, half of the raspberries and half of the blueberries. Repeat layers.

Spoon reserved pudding mixture on top. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

To make Star Garnish: Place 1 (1 oz.) white baking bar in a small, heavy saucepan. Heat over low heat until melted, stirring constantly. Tint with red paste food coloring. Pipe mixture into star shapes on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Let stand until dry. Carefully peel from wax paper.

This delightful dessert features two creamy layers topped with cherries.

- Eagle® Sweetened Condensed Milk
CREAMY:You'll love Cherry Angel Cream Cake.

Cherry Angel Cream Cake

1 prepared round angel food cake (10- or 12-oz.), frozen (for easy slicing)
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cold water
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 package (4-serving size) instant vanilla-flavor pudding mix
2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream, whipped
2 cans (21 oz. each) cherry OR peach pie filling, divided

Cut cake into 1/4-inch slices; arrange half the slices on the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, water and almond extract; mix well. Add pudding mix; beat well. Chill for 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream.

Spread half the cream mixture over cake slices; top evenly with one can pie filling. Top with remaining cake slices, then remaining cream mixture, then other can of pie filling. Chill for 4 hours, or until set. Cut into squares to serve. Store leftovers, covered, in refrigerator. Yields one cake.

Everyone will enjoy this festive treat.

Red, White & Blue Delight

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter OR margarine, melted
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 containers (8 oz. each) plain yogurt
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 pint fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
1 cup fresh blueberries

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter; press firmly on the bottom of a 12-by-7-inch or 13-by-9-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, yogurt, marshmallows and nuts. Spread half the mixture over crust. Top with half the berries, remaining yogurt mixture, then remaining berries. Cover; freeze for 6 hours, or until firm. Let stand for 10 minutes; cut into squares. Store leftovers covered in freezer. Yields 8 to 10 servings.