How to Get Sparkle in a Vase, Cheap Into Pest Control and Piddle Out of Carpet

Dear Mary: I have a beautiful crystal vase that over the years has acquired a build-up of residue that I cannot remove. Do you have a suggestion on how to remove it? Pat

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Dear Pat: That build-up is likely calcium, lime and other minerals from years of standing water. You may need to experiment a bit, but I’m sure you can return that vase to its sparkling beauty. Here are two simple and completely harmless methods:

Method 1: Start by filling the vase with white vinegar to cover past the murky area. If the vase is large, you can use a mixture of vinegar and water. Allow the vinegar to sit for a couple of hours. Swish the liquid around to see how much of the film has been loosened. If the film layer is thick and not coming loose, add a 1/4 cup of uncooked rice. Cover and shake the container. The rice will “scrub” to loosen the tough layers. Use the bottle brush to remove any remaining film from the interior of the vase. Empty the vase and wash with mild soap. Dry completely.

Method 2: Fill the vase with water and drop in one or two denture tablets, depending on the vase size. Allow to sit and work overnight. In the morning agitate the container gently to ensure all of the deposits and mineral build up has come loose. Empty the vase and wash with mild soap and water. Rinse well and dry it completely.

More Ways to Slash Your Food Bill

Could you use an extra $25 or $50 next week? If you get motivated there’s a big chance you can slash your family’s food bill by that much—maybe more—each week, without sacrificing health and nutrition. And that will be tax-free cash you have in your hand, not money that requires more overtime or a garage sale before you can get your hands on it.

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There’s not one single way to reduce food costs significantly and consistently. It has to be a combination of strategies: buy right, eat out less and cook at home more.

COUPONS. You know that couponing can be very effective. But you have to do it right, or it will just be a big waste of time and money. Check sites like The Grocery Game (my favorite) and Coupon Mom. The secret is to combine a manufacturer’s coupon with a sale. That requires that you keep your eye on sales and also hold onto coupons, but not so long that they expire.

Do-It-Yourself Pest Control for Home and Garden

Recently, a friend sent me an S.O.S. asking if I knew of any natural way to rid an apartment of fleas—a method that would not be toxic to small children. Treating the pets animals would be the first step, but surprisingly these folks have no animals. The truth is that flea infestations often occur simply because neighborhood cats or dogs like to lounge near their home or they have purchased an infested piece of furniture from a yard sale.

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I headed right for my collection of pest control recipes and retrieved the perfect solution for fleas. I thought you might enjoy knowing that one, plus remedies for all kinds of  home and garden pests.

All-Purpose outdoor insect spray. Mix one chopped garlic clove, one chopped small onion and one tablespoon cayenne powder into one quart water. Allow to steep one hour, then add one tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap, like blue Dawn or Ivory liquid. This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only one week, so use it up.

Ants. Repel an ant invasion by washing counter tops, cabinets and floors with equal parts water and vinegar. 

Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do

Financial discouragement plagues all of us from time to time. If you’re discouraged about your situation today, there are some things you can do to counter those feeling and attitudes. The most important is to know this will not last forever.

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Let’s say your neighbor just came home with a brand new sport utility vehicle. You are overwhelmed by feelings of desire and envy. There was a time that you would begin immediately to find a way to get a new car, too. But things are different now. You have a new set of values. You no longer make financial decisions impulsively.

The car you have already is paid for and meets your family’s current needs. But still those feelings are bubbling up. Just as soon as you recognize them, start erasing! Replace those destructive attitudes with thoughts of your Freedom Account and the way you are committed to the cash-purchase of your next vehicle; think about not making huge monthly payments, not paying triple insurance premiums, not paying $400 for the annual registration fee, not forking over $600 for that 50,000 mile tune-up.

It’s All About that Sauce

Sometime ago, I posted an impromptu fan poll on our Facebook page asking, “What is your greatest financial temptation?”

photo credit: paddyspig

Answer choices: accepting more credit, vacation, clothes, new car, stuff for house, eating out or none-of-the-above. I thought I could easily predict the outcome: stuff for the house would win.

The runaway winner at 41 percent was “eating out.” I guess I should not have been surprised.

How much do you think the average American— spends in a year by eating out at restaurants?

In 2013, the average “consumer unit” spent $2,625 when eating food away from home, according to the U.S. Department of Labor—a consumer unit being defined as 2.5 people of whom 1.3 are earners, in a household with 1.9 vehicles. You know, your typical family with half a kid, someone working one-third of the time and a vehicle that’s so on its last leg it could only be considered nine-tenths of a car.

Regardless the humorous definition of a typical family, I find that $2,625 figure to be not only startling, but worse, seriously understated. In 2013, 81 percent of the money spent at full-service restaurants in America was paid in plastic. That means only 19 percent pay cash.

Feedback on Tuft & Needle: It’s All Good

Dear Mary: You recently had an interesting discussion on mattresses that mentioned the Tuft & Needle mattress. Did you get any further feedback/information on how your readers like the product? Have you gotten one? We are interested in hearing your opinion. Jan

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Dear Jan: I have not. To my delight, the king bed and mattress we had already fits well into our new guest room, so that’s a purchase I happily crossed off the list for now. But not for long. I will have no hesitation purchasing a Tuft & Needle mattress for these reasons: They are made completely in the USA. The fibers they use are grown and sustainably harvested in America, and the foams used are 100 percent recyclable. Another huge selling point for this mattress: It is ridiculously affordable.

I’ve heard from dozens of readers who have purchased a Tuft & Needle mattress, and without exception their feedback is gives this mattress very high marks! Here’s just one of many letters:

Dear Mary: I saw Tuft & Needle mattress mentioned in your column by someone asking about them. I purchased one. Great mattress and delivered on time as promised. I am very happy and recommend this product! Sam

Dear Mary: I am teary eyed with relief after reading your recent post Simple Rules to Live By, where revealed that you have directional dyslexia. I suffer from the same thing , however, I did not realize it had a name. Directional confusion is especially a problem. I thought my problem which causes fearfulness when driving in unknown areas was a ridiculous phobia. I have hated myself for it, being embarrassed and trying, usually unsuccessfully, to hide from all but my closest friends. Even getting out of an elevator to return the way I came, I would typically turn the wrong direction. I told my best friend that I felt it had an association with remembering sequences. When I read more about this problem, I saw myself. 

My Five Favorite TV Shows

I used to watch a lot of television. I’d have it on all the time, rarely watching a full show but just flipping from one channel to another worried I might be missing something. Then we pulled the plug on cable TV. I gave up that habit cold turkey. 

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Mostly I didn’t miss it. The experience was freeing, like suddenly I found more hours in my day. But there were a handful of shows that I truly missed because for me they are motivating and often inspirational. These are the five shows I watch regularly, now that we’ve settled into our new home.

1. Fixer Upper. This HGTV reality show stars husband and wife team Chip and Joanna Gaines. He’s a contractor, she’s a designer and they live in Waco, Tex. On the show, the Gaineses start by showing homes to potential buyers in central Texas. Every home needs repairs or renovations. Once the buyers choose their home, Joanna designs it while Chip is the lead contractor. The buyers typically have a total budget of under $200,000 with at least $30,000 in renovations.

Why it’s a favorite. Unlike most reality shows that are mostly fake, Fixer Upper comes across as authentic and realistic—not heavily scripted where every scene is perfectly lighted, staged and produced. I love Chip and Joanna because they are so real and so much fun. Every episode of Fixer Upper motivates me in some way and makes me believe in myself. Joanna’s design and decorating tips and tricks are so usable, I can’t wait to steal them for my own home. And I won’t deny that at the end of every show, I secretly want to invite Chip and Joanna over for dinner so we can become friends.

The Scoop on Free Ice Cream

Is there anything better than ice cream on a hot summer day? Well, yes there is—FREE ice cream! And I’ve got the scoop on where you can get free goodies like ice cream on your birthday and other times, too.

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Most of these stores and restaurants will require you to join a club or sign up for e-alerts. So do this: Create a free email account at Yahoo or Gmail exclusively for these kinds of special offers and freebies. That will help keep your regular email inbox free of all the notices and offers that are sure to show up.

Baskins-Robbins. When you sign up for Baskin-Robbins Birthday Club you get a free scoop of ice cream on your birthday and other special offers and coupons throughout the year.

Dippin’ Dots. When you join the Forty Below Club, you will get a free cup of Dippin’ Dots ice cream on your birthday.

Friendly’s. Once you join the BFF Club you’ll be eligible for a free three-scoop sundae with the purchase of an entree just for enrolling and a special treat on your birthday, too.

Dairy Queen. Join the Blizzard Fan Club to get a buy-one-get-one-Blizzard-free coupon. Kids also get a free ice cream treat with a kids’ meal.