Adventures in Shoe Repair

I’ve always worn cheap shoes.  As a child, my mother didn’t see any point in spending money to buy shoes we were going to grow out of anyway.  In fact, a lot of my shoes were hand me downs from my sister.  (For a long time I did have to pay extra for the super narrow widths, but fortunately years of pointe dancing widened my feet out enough to allow for wearing most normal shoes).  Even as an adult, no matter how much my friends insisted to me it was worth investing in nicer shoes, I never bought into it.  There are a couple of reasons:

No matter how much they swore to me nicer shoes were more comfortable, my personal experience is that they aren’t.

Also, I love shoes.  And at $10 a pair I can have lots of shoes whereas for $80 I could only have a couple pairs.

No matter how much they tell me said nice shoes will last longer, the few times I’ve purchased a nice pair (on sale, of course) I manage to scuff them badly the first or second time out the house in them.  This is why I can’t have nice things.  Add to that, years of pointe dancing and tap dancing gave me over developed muscles in the balls of my feet.  So while the idea of buying nice shoes and getting them resoled was appealing in principle, I wore out the tops long before the bottoms.  So it didn’t work for me.

Well, years have gone by and I’ve lost some of my muscle tone.  I’m still not buying shoes for more than $40 (and if I pay $40 for them they’re going to have to be boots; I try to keep things in the $20-30 range), but I’m not wearing out the tops.  Now the most common problem I have is snapping the tips off the heels.  I blame it on too much walking around on brick.  (It seems no matter where I move, I cannot get away from brick sidewalks!)  It’s probably worth adding at this point the fact that I’m a really good bargain shopper.  At least a quarter of my shoe collection came from thrift stores and I happen to know a place that has buy 1 get 2 free sales several times a year.

So this week I had my first experience with shoe repair.  The thing which finally pushed me into it was I have this fabulous pair or red, knee-high suede boots.  With somewhat spikey heels, one of which lost its tip a couple years back.  Now I love these shoes, and haven’t been able to part with them, but I’ve only worn them a couple times in the past two years because they make my legs uneven and the circumcised heel makes an awful sound on concrete.  But I only paid $16 for them in the first place, so repairing them seemed so silly!

I finally decided to be silly and took them to the shoe repair place around the corner (along with a pair of $30 ankle boots).  I figured I’d never find boots like that for that price again, so I’d just bite the bullet.  What an amazing experience!  First you have to understand that not only was the tip of the heel snapped off, the suede was all peeled back on the heel, exposing the white plastic and metal core underneath.  When the man behind the counter looked at them with a frown, I said, “I realize there’s probably nothing you can do about that.” He scoffed and motioned to the man working in the corner and said, “This guy’s an artist.  You’d be amazed.” Intrigued (and probably bored) the Sicilian-American cobbler came over to look and in a matter of seconds and pulled and twisted the suede back into place so you could never tell it had been ripped.  Yes, I was amazed.

They told me I could wait—it would only take about fifteen minutes to get both shoes done.  This meant I could sit there and listen to some very colorful language, not to mention some delightful banter: “What’d you do?  Walk from Alaska in these shoes?” “No.  Just Virginia.”  And in the end my shoes were not just repaired, they were beautiful.  They took the time to brush them and re-dye parts of the black ankle boots that were scuffed.  My shoes are like new!

And it was only $14/pair, plus they gave me a discount just for being a redhead (no one tell them the truth!)

So I officially give the shoe bargainer stamp of approval to shoe repair.  And, as another friend pointed out, it’s also the eco-friendly option.

Cheap Green: My New Favorite Ex-Foliator

I’m not radically green.  I can, however, say without a doubt that I’ve been green a lot longer than a lot of the newly-environmentally-aware people I know, who are all about their organic cotton and trendy metal water bottles and reusable stuff.

See, the thing was, we used to just call it “cheap” when you were up for using things multiple times and growing your own tomatoes and making things yourself and hanging clothes out on the line.

But, whatever tag you attach to it, I’m enjoying the proliferation of cheap/green instructions out there.  One of which led me to a suggestion for a face and body scrub that is my new favorite thing ever:

Coffee grounds

Olive oil (a tablespoon or so–this isn’t an exact science

Tiny bit of tea tree oil (a few drops)

I actually read about the coffee grounds all on their own.  I tried it and it worked all right for me.  Nothing spectacular, but nice enough to use for the occasional ex-foliation.

Then someone on a message board posted something suggesting adding some olive oil.  Since I consider olive oil a somewhat magical thing, I was down for trying this.  The tea-tree oil was my own addition since I tend to use it on my skin anyhow as I’m prone to acne.  I tossed it all together and decided to give the new-and-improved version a try last weekend.

Oh my.

It’s been 5 days and I still find myself petting my own arm because it’s never felt that soft.  Yes, petting my own arm.  And my knees.  Holy crap, I never knew how rough my knees were until I found out how soft they could be.

This is a miracle substance, at least for me.  The raving and amazement I’ve heard from others about this product or that recipe, but never managed to experience myself?  Now I’ve got it.

The only downside is application.  The ideal way to use it is in the shower, but I hesitate to wash coffee grounds down the shower drain too often–I have to clean the hair out of the drain often enough without adding other bio matter to it.  But, if I can find a handy way of rinsing into a separate container, not only can I spare the drain, but I can take the whole mess out to the compost bin for use number 3 as future fodder for garden growth.

Just another way to reap the benefits of green, the new cheap.