Cut Flowers 101


Whether your cut flowers come through the back door (from your garden) or the front (supermarket, Costco, florist-delivered) you want them to last as long as possible. With just a modicum of effort you can double the time you can enjoy your flowers as opposed to just sticking them into a vase of water.


QUICK CUT. The sooner you put your flowers into water, the longer they will last. The flowers should be re-cut at the stems at an angle while submerged in water. This is important for hollow-stemmed flowers to prevent an airlock from forming in the stem that may prevent the flowers from taking water. 

When Not to File an Insurance Claim


Insurance is a funny thing. You pay a small fortune to get it and keep it. Then if you have the blatant audacity to actually file a claim, the company either increases your premiums or cancels you altogether.


While the world of insurance can at times be so confusing as to be maddening, going without basic property and automobile coverage is simply not an option. The financial risk is just too great. But there are some things you can do to make sure you don’t stand out to the company as an intolerable risk. 

The Power of Scarcity


Years ago I had a frugality wake-up call—something I admit to needing from time to time.

It’s so easy to get sloppy where we are surrounded by abundance and a seeming endless supply of everything.


It was the morning of our annual Holiday Dinner Party. I had limited time and many things to do to get ready for the big event. On my list was “clean patio chairs” because we would undoubtedly need them for additional seating. I wanted them sparkling clean and presentable.

The chairs had been out during several recent rainstorms and they showed it. I grabbed my supplies only to discover I had just one roll of paper towels and it was partly used. This would be a three-roll job at the very least. I was too busy to carefully count out one or two towels. My style was to spin off a big wad.

Honey, I Shrunk Your Sweater!


Dear Mary: Thank you for your many helpful articles. In a past column you wrote about how to un-shrink a wool sweater. All I can remember is that it involved baby shampoo. Could you print the instructions again? Thanks! Linda L., IL


Sure, here it is: Mix a solution of one gallon lukewarm water and two tablespoons baby shampoo. Soak the garment for about 10 minutes. Now the important part: Don’t rinse! Simply blot out all the excess water with a dry towel and very gently lay it flat on a fresh towel. Reshape slowly and carefully stretch it back to its original size. Dry out of direct sunlight or heat. This tip comes from the Wool Bureau who verifies this technique will work provided the fibers have not become permanently damaged.

Too Busy, Too Lazy, Too Tired to Cook


For the majority of American families, homemade meals are a thing of the past. When surveyed, parents say the reason for the demise of traditional meal preparation is that it’s too inconvenient, too time consuming, too challenging and too expensive.

Whoa, stop. Wait a minute. Too expensive?


That is just not true if by expensive you’re saying that it’s cheaper to eat out or get takeout than it is to cook a homemade meal.

As for the “too inconvenient” and “too time consuming” objections, I take exception. I can make any number of homemade meals from scratch and have dinner on the table in less time than it takes to drive there, order, wait, load up, drive back, get out, bring in and then get dinner on the table. As for the inconvenience part, does anything in that last sentence sound convenient to you?

Holiday Gift Guide for Kids Ages 3 to 7


Since the day our grandson, Eli, was born four years ago, my husband and I have done our best to buy toys for him that we hope will spark his curiosity, challenge his mind and prompt him to love learning. I’d say we’ve done something right because the more he learns the more fun we have and the more fun we have the more Eli learns. That’s what I call a win-win.

With Christmas only weeks away, you may be wondering how you can spark the joy of learning in the children andgrandchildren in your life this holiday season. Eli and I had fun coming up with this Gift Guide for kids ages 3 to 7—toys that are really fun to play with and educate, too.

Schleich Animals

The Best Inexpensive Overnight Deal in The OC


I have traveled a lot in the past 22 years. My American Airlines account shows more than 1.3 million miles on that carrier alone. You can only imagine how many hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and inns I’ve stayed in. While most have been adequate, a few were downright scary. And I can count on one hand those I would rate with 5-stars.


When it comes to overnight accommodations, I don’t care that much about how pretty the lobby might be; if the place has bell service, bottles of French water or movies on demand. What I need in a hotel is impeccable cleanliness,

Vinegar: One Powerful Household Product


It costs hardly anything, it’s available in every grocery store in the universe and so useful around your home you are going to have a hard time believing it. That’s the power of vinegar. Yep, plain, cheap, 5 percent acidity, white vinegar.

Girl Cleaning Lady sponge spray cleaner vinegar

1. Add 1/4 cup white vinegar to a quart of very warm water to make a good window cleaner. Wipe with crumpled newspaper and your windows will sparkle.

2. Instead of fabric softener or dry sheets, add 1/2 (one-half) to 1 cup vinegar to the last rinse in your washing machine (as you would liquid softener). Your clothes will come out soft because the vinegar helps to remove every trace of laundry detergent, which cause fabrics to stiffen.