The trouble with bottled water, experts say, is not the water. It’s the plastic bottles the water comes in that are potentially harmful to our health and environment.
The folks at the Mayo Clinic say we need to be concerned about BPA, often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. Exposure to BPA, they say, is a concern because of possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. The FDA suggests that very low level exposure to BPA is safe, however, the agency is engaged in ongoing research. Sounds scary to me.
Health issues are one thing, but the effect on the environment is another. According to the EPA, in 2010 the U.S. generated 31 million tons of plastic waste. This is becoming such a problem that Concord, Mass. recently became the first municipality in the nation to ban the sale of single-serving water bottles. San Francisco, Calif. may implement one of the strictest bottled water bans in the country if the its Board of Supervisors approves a proposal to ban its sale on public property. Extreme reactions? Perhaps, but 31 million tons of plastic waste is no small matter.
I’m a coupon shopper and I’m picky. I don’t like to use a coupon on an item that is not also on sale. That tactic nearly always guarantees me a bargain. I’m nearly guaranteed a bargain. Take Marinara sauce (aka spaghetti sauce) for example: A 24-ounce jar that retails for $4.89 goes on sale, 2/$6. I’ve been harboring a $.75 coupon for that particular. I buy one jar for $3, the store doubles my $.75 coupon, subtracting $1.50, with a final net price of just $1.50. Not bad! Actually this happens all the time, and that method results in a lot of spaghetti sauce in my grocery stockpile. So, what to do with all the sauce? Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce is always an option, but that gets old. Thankfully we have options:
Upside-Down Mini Pizzas
- 4 plain bagels, halved
- 24 slices Pepperoni
- 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup Marinara sauce
Top each bagel half with 3 slices pepperoni followed by 1 tablespoon shredded cheese on top. Top each with 1 tablespoon sauce (this order of assembly with the sauce on top is the secret to keeping these mini pizzas from getting soggy). Place bagels on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with no stick cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bagel is golden brown. Yield: 8 mini pizzas.
Dear Mary: I have a big problem and have told my daughters and their daughters that I am going to accept your advice to solve it. I have only one asset of significant value and it is a ring given to me many years ago by my mother. All of them want it when I die. This has caused a huge argument. I know there will be hard feelings no matter whom I decide to receive this ring in my will. I had the ring appraised and it is of significant value. By the way, I am 94 and my daughters are 69, 70 and 73. Thank you for helping me before time runs out. Dorothy H., Oregon
Dear Dorothy: The way I see this you have two choices: 1) You can leave the ring to your first-born, which is a kind of traditional way that heirlooms are passed down to the next generation or 2) Sell the ring now and divide the proceeds equally among your heirs. If I were you I would go with option #2. I predict that once they hear your decision, there will be a sudden change of attitude to preclude you carrying through with a sale.
Your response to yesterday’s column was huge. I’m still sifting through all the messages. And one thing is clear: Most of us hate to floss! And I get that. It’s a pain because it’s awkward and time consuming. And it’s not an easy task. And while most of your letters brought commitments to change, one message from Max offered a specific solution to the often troublesome yet traditional dental floss.
EASY FLOSS. Thanks for yesterday’s column about dental care. I don’t know how I’d live without my Sonicare! For years I struggled with flossing with regular dental floss and tried every type of solution and floss pick out there. They were either really expensive, or the floss would break mid floss. Recently a friend introduced me to these Plackers floss picks she found on Amazon. They never break, are relatively inexpensive, and slide easily between my teeth. I’ve tried a few different versions of the Plackers but my favorite are the Gentleslide Flossers. I recommend them to anyone who has trouble flossing with standard floss. Max H., email
Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for your friendly neighborhood periodontist, it could prevent a lot of pain—both dental and financial.
Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the gum tissue around the teeth, the fibers that hold the teeth in the jaw bone and the bone itself.
Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also under the gum, forming a sticky substance called “plaque” that hardens to form tartar. This leads to infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone it begins to decay and pus forms which causes swelling, redness and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out.
In her book, The Overspent American (Perennial), Harvard economist Juliet Schor quotes an essay written by the 18th Century French philosopher, Denis Diderot, “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown.”
Diderot’s regrets were prompted by a gift of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown. Thrilled with his new acquisition, Diderot quickly discarded his old gown. But in a short time, his pleasure turned sour as he began to sense that the surroundings in the room where he wore the gown were worn. He’d not noticed this before, but suddenly the place looked downright shabby. This certainly did not properly reflect the garment’s elegance.
I’m guilty of what my friend Amy says is the most egregious of all culinary crimes: I throw out pickle juice. And why not, I argue. It’s there to keep the pickles fresh and flavorful, so when they’re gone, out goes the juice–a practice that makes Amy go ballistic.
Here’s the deal: Amy is famous for her potato salad. She makes ten pounds at a time and it disappears faster than homemade ice cream on a hot summer day. Her secret, which she confides to only a chosen few, is sweet pickle juice. Not pickles, not relish–only the juice. And lots of it.
So, I said to myself, I wonder if there might be other uses for the briny stuff? A quick search of the multiple thousands of tips people have sent to me over the years came up positive. Really, I had no idea.
Sweet pickled chops. Arrange four pork chops in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt. Place a slice of onion and a tablespoon of catsup on the top of each. Pour 1/2 cup of sweet pickle juice around chops. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Yum!
Dear Mary: We will need a new stove soon—a slide-in type with a glass cooktop. On preliminary pricing, it will cost about $1,200 to replace our current model. We’ve just moved in and I am not sure when (or if) we will be remodeling the kitchen and what the new configuration will be. What are your suggestions for a cheap stop gap option? Sears wants $600 to fix the problems with the current oven and advised getting a new one because it is fifteen years old. I have enjoyed all of your tips and tricks over the years! –Cristy M., email
Dear Cristy: Given your plans to remodel, I’d go with getting your current stove repaired. You don’t say how soon you will be remodeling, but let’s say it’s in five years. If you opt for a new stove now, you may feel compelled to design your new kitchen around a five-year-old stove you purchased to fit an existing space. By repairing your current stove, you’ll save money now and also give yourselves more options when it’s time to tear out and start over. A lot can happen in five years. I wonder if maybe your salesman was thinking more about his commission than your best interests when he suggested you should buy a new stove.