Insurance Coverage You Absolutely Don’t Need

Some kinds of insurance are necessary. The following, however, may not only be unnecessary but downright ridiculous.

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ACCIDENTAL DEATH INSURANCE. Why pay extra for this kind of insurance? Statistically, it is highly unlikely you will die in an accident and even if you do the basic life insurance you carry should be sufficient.

CHILD LIFE INSURANCE. Life insurance should be carried only to the extent that others depend upon the income of the insured, whose early demise will leave those people financially destitute. Children don’t fall into this category unless, of course, your kid is Griffin Gluck. Insuring the lives of children is unnecessary and does not guarantee insurability when the child reaches adulthood as some agents would like you to believe. Actuarially speaking, the chances that your child will die in childhood, leaving you with big burial costs are so small, they’re barely worth talking about and a risk parents should agree to self-insure

TRAVEL INSURANCE. Never purchase this kind of insurance before taking a trip. If in the unlikely event the plane crashes or ship sinks, your family is going to sue. This kind of last minute insurance is costly and a major rip-off. Ditto for trip cancellation insurance.

Beat the Clutter Improve Your Life

Getting organized is like dieting. Everyone knows how to do it. The problem is getting around to it and then maintaining the results.

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A few years ago, when we remodeled our kitchen I emptied every cupboard and drawer. When it was time to put everything back, I decided to put things away as I used them. I quickly realized why it was such a problem to keep the kitchen neat and tidy. We had too much stuff we never used. Getting rid of the unused left so much space to organize the essentials.

Face it. If you don’t have enough closet, drawer and storage space to comfortably handle your possessions, you probably own to many things. Give away, pare down let your rooms closets and drawers appear serene and controlled–kept.

There’s no single “right” way to organize your possessions and home. Organization must fit your style, your energy and your schedule. Find a system that functions best for you and your family.

No matter the way you do it, let this be your mantra: Eliminate and concentrate.

World-Class Gourmet Pasta on a Shoestring

A popular restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif., Hugo’s, has been critically acclaimed for one of its menu items, “Pasta Mama.” The first time I heard about it and what’s in it, I thought it was a bit odd. Pasta with eggs? I couldn’t imagine what would prompt people to drive many miles to get it. But they do, saying, it’s the best pasta they’ve ever eaten.

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I had to try it, and as you might imagine, I love it. I would describe it to you here, but it’s indescribable—indescribably delicious, that is. But I don’t drive the 40 miles to Hugo’s to pay $12.25 (plus tax and tip) for this dish. Instead I make it myself, from scratch. What a wonderful, simply satisfying dinner—or breakfast—entree.

Pasta Mama takes all of about 10 minutes start to finish and feeds two for a total cost of about $1.50. At that price you have very little to lose if you try it and don’t like it, and chances are really good that you’ll love it. In fact, I won’t be surprised to hear that you’ve added Pasta Mama to your family’s list of favorite meals. Serve it once a week and your grocery budget will love you.

Help! My Fine Linens Have Rust Stains

Dear Mary: Please advise how to remove rust spots from white cutwork linen pieces. I have no idea where these came from but would love to remove them. Thanks. Frieda H., California

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Dear Frieda: Provided these are washable, soak the spot with lemon juice then work table salt into the spot. Set it out in the sun for a few hours. Brush the salt away. If any stain remains, repeat. Once the stain is gone, launder as usual.

Dear Mary: I can’t keep lettuce in my refrigerator for more than two days without it turning rusty. I’ve tried everything, Tupperware containers, washing and putting paper towels in bag with it, not washing until using. Even though the date on the package is good for at least 5 days after opening I end up throwing it away before that time. Am I the only one who has this problem? Pat

Dear Pat:  “Rust” on lettuce leaves is harmless. It develops from the natural breakdown process in the cells once it is harvested and isn’t rust at all, as we think of it. This rust-color indicates old lettuce. If this is happening on dated package greens, return it to the store for a refund. When selecting head lettuce, look at the “stem” area where the head was cut from the stalk. If it is bright white, you know it’s very fresh. If it is rust color, it’s getting quite old. Select the head that’s closest to white for your freshest choice.

Backpacks That Wear Well and Look Good, Too

Have a messy outdoor job you need to tackle? How about those crummy, cheap backpacks that don’t even last through the school year? Today your fellow readers have tips for how to deal with those annoying problems and so much more!

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BACKPACK SOURCE. My sons had terrible problems with backpacks. Even the expensive ones would not last an entire school season. Then one day we went into the Army/Navy surplus store. We found military backpacks (rucksacks) that wore like iron! In fact, the boys carried them for years—all the way through high school. And, they thought they were very cool. Carole

TRASHY APRON. If you have a particularly dirty job to do like cleaning the outdoor grill, taking down dirty window screens or hosing down the patio furniture before storing away for winter, make yourself a disposable apron: Take a large garbage bag, cut holes for your head and arms and slip it over your clothes. You may look a little weird, but you’ll protect your clothes and save yourself a lot of time and trouble later. Roy

STORAGE DESIGN. If your storage space is limited and you have to stack several boxes on top of each other, make a diagram on an index card and keep it in a handy place. When you go to look for something you’ll know exactly where it is. Store items towards the front that you’re more likely to use often with less-used items at the back. Lucille

Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her regular full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I’ve done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do for them. 

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PROCESS SERVER. I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. Whenever I had a couple of hours to spare, I’d pop into the office, pick up a stack of subpoenas and head out to attempt to “serve” unsuspecting defendants in civil law suits.

My mission was to locate the defendant then address said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of “knowing” and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, turning to walk (run?), I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.

The best part? I got paid $35 per attempt to serve. That means if I knocked on the door and no one was home, attempt complete and back into the stack that document would go for a future attempt. I could easily “attempt to serve” two or three subpoena’s per hour. The attorney service company I worked for loved me because I was available at odd times, like late at night or early on a Saturday.

Process servers are legally required to serve papers in the correct manner laid out by their state. Process serving laws differ by state. But basically, if you are an adult, have not been convicted of a crime and can engage strangers in a warm and friendly way, you too could be a process server in your spare time.

PIANO TEACHER. I got started young at age 15 as a student teacher in a music academy. I loved it—not so much the teaching, but the $5 per lesson. My little students did well and soon I was teaching on my own, at home after school. Teaching private piano lessons was the way I paid my way through college. At one point I had 72 students, giving each one a 30-minute lesson per week.

The Mystery of Hair Conditioners

Considering the huge reader response on a past article on how to know which cheap shampoos are actually good for your hair, it seemed only right to follow with a similar piece on conditioners. Unfortunately, conditioners are not quite as simple as shampoos.

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First, we need to demystify the term “conditioner.” It is a vague term that refers to a wide range of hair products designed to make hair more manageable and also treat common hair problems.

Conditioners fall into general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve.

Using the wrong product for the specific condition of your hair will produce disappointing results. For example, if your hair is thin and fine you are not going to be happy with my industrial-strength conditioner for thick, coarse, frizzy, color-treated hair.

Let Us Eat Cake!

What do Pat Benatar, George Foreman and I, your humble columnist, have in common? We share the same birthday.

photo credit: veryval

photo credit: veryval

I only know this because someone gave me a 797-page book titled simply, The Portable Book of Birthdays. Good thing too, or I’d never have known that Pat, George and I have socially savvy personalities and a keen ability to promote our ideas and to get what we want. We are intelligent, easily irritable and need constant emotional stimulation, too.

While the book doesn’t mention our favorite birthday cake, I feel confident in speaking for the three of us when I say that without a doubt it is coconut cake. But not just any coconut cake. It has to be 3-Day Coconut Cake that is so delicious it will knock your socks off no matter when you were born. But first a small explanation.

The recipe that follows calls for “frozen coconut.” As many times as I have made this cake (I wonder if Pat and George make their own birthday cakes) I have yet to find such a thing where I live in California. I’ve looked everywhere, asked store managers and anyone else who might be handy. No where to be found. I do understand, however, that frozen coconut is readily available in other parts of the country in the grocery frozen food case. Someone suggested recently that I try an Indian market and I will do that as soon as I, well, locate an Indian market. In the past I have tried fresh coconut with excellent results, but it was a real pain to crack, pry, smash, break, drain, peel and grate. So, I will continue to use Angel’s grated sweetened coconut that comes in a bag and can be found in the baking aisle of any food market.