With this column on hiatus for a couple of weeks, I’m glad to be back, checking out a bunch of bargains and special events for readers.
I made a stop at Eckert’s Country Store in Belleville and quickly found a couple of kitchen essentials — at least for me — at the front of the store. Spend a whopping $1.59 for a magnetic Clean/Dirty mini plastic sign for your dishwasher. It saves a lot of comments like “You just put dirty plates in with the clean ones.” (But, I can’t help you if you don’t remember to flip the sign around so the correct message is showing.)
In the same area, look for the 99 cent cake testers. They’re an improvement over the one the one I own. Mine disappears into the drawer where I keep my baking utensils because it is nothing more than a long wire with a twisted look on the end. It’s easy to miss among the spatulas, etc. The Eckert’s version has a bright plastic topper on it, so you can’t miss it.
Both of these gadgets are perfect inexpensive gifts for a housewarming or a kitchen shower.
Don’t miss the Container Workshop at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ahner Greenhouse at 415 W. Hanover St. in New Baden. Bring your containers and let an expert help you plant your pots. Choose your plants, add soil and then plant. It’s nice to keep the mess at the greenhouse and not your house. You must RSVP in advance to 618-588-4215 with the number of people and pots so the staff can be ready and there will be enough snacks and drinks.
Did you know you can book a private shopping event at Peace by Piece in downtown Belleville? Host a get-together (usually after normal business hours) with at least eight of your friends. Call the boutique at 618-233-1519 or email email@example.com.
Got a child who enjoys figuring out how things work? Target stores are carrying a line of kits called Rube Goldberg playsets from Wonderology. They are inspired by the famous American cartoonist and inventor, best known for his hilarious and complex contraptions devised to perform simple tasks. For example, can you use a basketball, a monkey and a tightrope to launch an acrobat? You bet! With the $14.99 kit, and many others, kids discover and learn about STEM-based principles. I saw a good selection at the Belleville store. Prices range from $9.99 to $19.99.
Saturday is Earth Day and IKEA has lots of sustainable activities, sales and giveaways at the St. Louis store. Plus, the international retailer has dropped prices from last year on a wide variety of goods, from a four-tier Hemnes open shelf unit in white or dark brown stain (almost 3 feet tall) for $59.99 (last year, $79.99) to a beautiful stainless steel serving bowl for $4.99 (last year, $6.99). Check out many more deals at the St. Louis store or at ikea.com.
At St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights, Auntie Anne’s is celebrating National Pretzel Day with some serious pretzel generosity. Guests who use the My Pretzel Perks app will have a choice of one free original or cinnamon sugar pretzel redeemable from National Pretzel Day — which is April 26 — through April 30. In order to receive the free pretzel, download the free My Pretzel Perks app in the Apple App Store and Android Google Play Store before noon Wednesday.
Buckle at the mall is now carrying an exclusive collection of clothing and accessories tied to the “Fast & Furious” movie franchise — as long as you’re willing to pay at least $40 for a guy’s T-shirt. Some of the items are special offers only available through April 21. “The Fate of the Furious” opened April 14 nationwide.
Sears is offering 5 percent to 50 percent off tools, outdoor camp chairs, canopies and more through Saturday.
Ulta Beauty in Fairview Heights has this deal through Saturday: Buy two items from its Ulta Beauty Collection and get one free — from makeup and brushes to beauty tools and suncare.