Of Green Smoothies and Grateful Readers

Somedays I can’t believe how lucky I am. Not only do I get to communicate with this growing audience of readers, many of you reciprocate with lovely responses. Every single day I open my mailbox and out spill wonderful notes, letters—even an occasional multiple-page tome. Mostly, you send me questions. But now and then it’s just a wonderful thank you note. Always, I’m grateful for your feedback.

DEAR MARY: I am marching in your army of green smoothie breakfasters! Is your recipe for one or two people? (Asked as she obligingly drinks the whole thing, which seems quite adequate!) Christine


DEAR CHRISTINE: You just made me laugh out loud envisioning you marching in your army uniform, green smoothie in hand. It is a recipe for one single 16-ounce smoothie and yes, it makes for a very adequate, healthy smoothie.

You could easily divide this to make two smaller servings, but I do like your style. I got your message just as the hubs was making his morning smoothie, so I shot a quick pic from our deck, hoping to also capture the beauty of autumn. Happy to have you in the army, by the way.


DEAR MARY: I just have to say Thank You! I recently purchased the Shark Navigator Life-Away Professional vacuum that you have written about—even though I have a good vacuum and am trying to minimize my possessions. Oh my! I have been vacuuming for a week straight and am still getting dirt out of my family room carpeting. What’s more, it even feels like new carpeting under our feet. Not to mention that this machine is also beautiful—white and silver! This is just indicative of the numerous ways your wisdom and insight has blessed me and my family. Hope I get to see you in person again sometime (I was in the audience when you spoke in Naperville, Ill., several years ago). Nancy

DEAR NANCY: Yours is the ninth message I’ve received just this week from readers who are also ecstatic over their Shark vacuums. I know the feeling. I get it every time I put my Sharky to work. I have moved from being embarrassed by what he gets out of the carpet to feeling kinda’ self-righteous, knowing that finally my carpeting is really clean. Now it’s easy to keep it that way. And I try to stay on top of even the smallest spot so it doesn’t become a stain, using the spot treatment Spot Shot.

It was great to hear from you and to recall that evening in Naperville. When I walked to the podium, I was shocked nearly to tears to see my college music professor, Fr. Wilbur David Ellsworth and his wife Jean, sitting front and center. I had not seen them since graduation day. Knowing that you were there as well makes that memory extra special.


Pay-As-You-Go is a Great Way to Go

It’s not easy being a consumer these days. In fact, it can be downright confusing because of all the payment choices. First, you have your cash, your checkbook, credit and debit cards. And then you have deferred billing, skip-a-payment, nothing down, no payments and/or zero interest till the next decade. See? Confusion, pure and simple.


Prehistoric consumers had it easy. Just one choice: chickens. They traded poultry for things they needed. The rules were simple: No fowl? No food, fuel, fun or futons for that matter.

Then along came the invention of currency and that gave consumers a second choice—one that caught on quickly since folding a chicken to fit neatly into ones wallet was rather messy.

A third option was both the day some unknown retailer came up with a payment plan, surely named in memory of the good ol’ chicken days: Layaway. You may be wondering what happened to layaway, anyway!

Not that long ago, every major retail store in the country allowed customers to buy merchandise on layaway. The item was placed in the back room and customers could take all the time they needed to pay it off. Interest free. And when they made the last payment, they took the item home. 


Getting Debt-Free Plus the Best Machine to Clean Tile Floors

DEAR MARY: After reading your books and columns for several years, I am ecstatic to report that I am almost debt-free; my credit card debt is history! I can’t thank you enough for your encouraging words and sage counsel.


Now I need to know how to find a low-interest card—preferably a no annual fee type—to use mainly for online purchases, and which will be paid off monthly. I have absolutely no idea how to go about this and would appreciate any information you could provide. Thanks for everything! Sherry

DEAR SHERRY: Congratulations on your amazing progress toward becoming debt-free. I am so very proud of you. This is an almost amazing accomplishment, so keep going and don’t ever give up. You’ll be there soon and what a wonderful debt-free day that will be for you!

As for your question regarding a low-interest card, I would suggest that the interest rate not be your primary consideration. You will never carry a balance on it, so your primary consideration should be that is it has no annual fee. Second, it must have an excellent grace period of at least 21 days. Next it should be either a MasterCard or Visa and last you want to get the lowest interest rate you can.


Slow Cooker Nailed It!

There’s just something about the bountiful tastes of autumn and slow cookers that go together.


Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of testing in my kitchen and while some results have been less than palatable (let me make all the mistakes so you won’t have to), other attempts have turned out even better than I could have dreamed. I’m anxious to share these recipes with you and even more anxious to hear how they turn out for you.

One thing is for certain: You can make these meals at home for a fraction of the cost of eating out—and I am confident that your fare will taste better, too.

If you’re keeping track of the cost of meat these day, you’re probably aware that pork remains much cheaper than beef. 


How to Use Just the Right Amount of Laundry Detergent

Dear Mary: I love all of your washing machine tips, but can you guide us on using the correct amount of detergent? I know you say small amounts, but can one tell by ‘feeling’ the water? I hate to do a load with too little or too much and it feels like a guessing game. I tried googling this, but the info was not helpful. You are such an expert on these things that I thought you might have some additional tips—you can bear the thought of another post about laundry, that is! Hugs to you for such fantastic work. Your Anonymous Fan


Dear A.F.: Great question. And yes, flattery did get your letter to the top of the pile so good job on that!

Most of us use way too much laundry detergent, which can present all kinds of problems like skin irritation, grayish looking whites and stiff scratchy clothes and linens. Whatever amount of detergent you use, it must be completely rinsed away for the results to be beautifully clean, whiter-than-white, brighter-than-bright colors; soft clothes and linens.

Generally, (and I say that word because there are so many variables which I’ll touch on shortly) if you have soft water use 1 tablespoon (1/16 cup) of HE (high-efficiency) detergent per wash load. If you have hard water use 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup), which begs the question “How do I know if my water is hard or soft?” 


The Gentle Art of Gift-Giving

As the holiday gift-giving season nears, it’s important to remember that not every relationship requires a gift. Sometimes a card or letter in which you write a thoughtful sentiment, is an excellent way to go. Caring enough to pick out the right card and then taking the time and effort to write in it can say “I care!” even better than a gift could.


Being a responsible gift-giver will help you to be an excellent recipient as well. Knowing that it’s the thought that went into the gift that counts—not the price tag—will help you to be genuinely grateful. You cannot be too grateful. But you can fail to express your gratitude, and that’s always a bad thing.

If you don’t know what to give someone, ask this simple question: What really matters to him or her?

Let’s say your grandmother really loves animals. In fact, she volunteers at the shelter two days a week. She is passionate about animal rights. Donating any amount of money (or a few hours of your time) in her name to the animal shelter would probably make her break down and cry. She would be touched that you cared enough to figure out what really matters to her.

GIVE SOMETHING YOU MADE. Whether it’s something from your kitchen, craft room, woodworking shop, or computer, there’s nothing like a homemade gift. A tree ornament, plate of cookies, box of fudge, note cards—these are just some of the homemade gifts that have universal appeal.


7 Ways to Cut Your Smartphone Data Usage

Unlimited data plans for smartphones are nearly a thing of the past. Even if you’ve managed to hang on to your unlimited data plan, it’s likely not truly unlimited. Your carrier probably throttles your data speeds if you exceed a certain amount of downloaded data in a given billing period.


Data usage per smartphone is growing like crazy which is prompting the typical smartphone user to buy bigger data allowances as they sign up for shared data plans and add other devices, especially tablets. Ka-ching!

There are things that you, as a socially connected, tech-savvy person with a smartphone and a limited data plan can do to stay below your limited data plan cap. Follow these tips to cut back on your data habit, track and monitor your usage, and stretech your data plan—so you never have to pay overage charges again.


How to Cut the Cost of Owning a Pet

No one was more surprised than I when my first granddog, Sir Boddington, nuzzled a place in my heart. I knew I was smitten the day I loaded up on toys, milk bones and other doggie delights. I blame it on “Boddie” that I so willingly became a member of the U.S. population that spent $58 billion in 2014 on food, supplies, services such as grooming and boarding, and medical care for their 358 million pets.


So how can you afford to care for your furry friend—in sickness and in health? Make prevention maintenance your top priority as a pet owner and you’ll save later on.

RESTRAIN. A fence or some other reasonable restraint is the best way to avoid big vet bills, says David T. Roen, D.V.M., board-certified veterinarian and owner of the Clarkston Veterinary Clinic in Clarkston, Washington. “I see more dogs in my office because of injuries sustained while unrestrained than for any other reason. Dogs should always be leashed, fenced or supervised.”

CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOOD. Dr. Roen advises pet owners to skip all the fancy premium foods sold by vets. Use name-brand pet food from the supermarket labeled “complete and balanced.” Or look for the seal of approval of AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials). Stick with the same brand. Switching abruptly can cause health issues for some animals. And less is better, as slightly underweight pets have fewer health problems.