Got Airline Miles? Think Fast!


If you willingly pay an annual fee for a credit card that earns airmiles (most reward cards do come with a hefty price), you might want to re-think that decision. The problem is airlines are changing the rules to shorten the time before miles expire. Several years ago I learned this the hard way.

It looked like junk mail but for some reason I opened the envelope from United Airlines. Turns out it wasn’t junk, but I have a sneaky suspicion whoever designed this mailer hoped I’d toss it in the shredder. It was notification that my 38,000 MileagePlus miles would expire on New Year’s Eve if I didn’t activate my account by adding more miles to it before the stroke of midnight. Quite frankly, in the hustle and bustle of the season, booking a flight just so I could log a few more miles wasn’t exactly on my Christmas list.

source: pvw

source: pvw

It’s not easy to rack up 38,000 air miles. Either you have to actually put $38,000 on a qualifying credit card or fly a lot on that airline, which is how I earn miles. Thankfully, I wasn’t so loyal that I’d purposely book a United flight at a higher price, just to earn the miles. Having enough miles in my account to actually book a free trip someday was like a trophy to me. But knowing the miles were about to evaporate got me thinking in a new way.

Rules of Thrift: Reduce, Reuse Recycle … Remake!


Have I told you lately how much I enjoy it when you fill up my inbox with your clever tips, tricks and solutions? Well, I do. It allows me to take a guilt-free break now and then to ponder and wonder why I didn’t think of that.


CANDLE REMADE. I had a peppermint-scented Christmas candle that was inside a metal container. It had been made that way, so you couldn’t take the candle out of the container. The wick had burned down to the bottom, making a narrow well, but the sides of the container still had a lot of the candle wax.  I didn’t want to throw it away, as the container was very festive and the candle’s scent was really nice. So I placed the container on an electric candle warmer (an electric mug warmer would serve the same purpose.) After everything melted, I took out what was left of the wick and replaced it with a small taper candle. I removed the container from the warmer and let the wax harden. Voila! The remade candle is once again usable. The taper candle provided a new wick and was much easier than trying to dangle a string over the container. --Lynn B., Texas

Use Science to Slash Your Home Heating Bill


Got big heating bills this winter even though you keep the thermostat set at “Brrrrrr”? Science may be able to offer you a better and cheaper way to stay warm at home. But first a few facts:

Feeling warm or cold has nothing to do with air temperature. We get warm from our surroundings that have been heated by infrared radiation. The sun produces harmless infrared lightwaves that are invisible and responsible for making us feel warm.


Caramel Corn, Peanut Brittle and NOTHING About Black Friday


While I don’t personally know of anyone who has been camping out in a Walmart parking lot for the last week, I do know lots of people who are storming the sales at malls and stores today. Me? I’d rather be any other place—like Yo Gabba Gabba LIVE! Or maybe in my kitchen stirring up a few batches of decadent Caramel Corn and Peanut Brittle.

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Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to kick off the holiday season than with my two favorite decadent holiday treats!

The Most Dreaded Words: “What’s for Dinner?!”


DEAR MARY: I have been reading your column and implementing your ideas for years, with varying degrees of success (my fault, not yours). The one thing I bless you for every day is eMeals.

I just subscribed to eMeals at the start of the school year. I am a teacher and have two kids in high school. After 22 years of marriage, grocery shopping had become a dreaded chore. I like cooking, but I hated the planning. My son is a picky eater, which made it even harder.


My mom always used to write up a menu and make her grocery list from that, so I have always tried to do the same. I even used my local grocery store’s weekly ad to plan my list. It was still something I dreaded.

Using eMeals has completely liberated me. It sounds very dramatic, but I really feel like my chains are gone and I’ve been set free. I just go to the grocery store and buy what is on the list. I prepare the (easy) recipes. If my son doesn’t like it, I say “Too bad! It isn’t my fault – blame eMeals.”

The Best Stocking Stuffer Ever


I am so excited. I have the perfect gift to stuff into my husband’s Christmas stocking. Do you recall me telling you what a lousy cook he is? Well, thanks to today’s first tipster’s heads up, he will never have to deal with a sizzling skillet and burned grilled cheese sandwiches again. Just keep it quiet, OK? I want this to be a surprise!


TOASTER BAGS. I just wanted to let you know that in the bread aisle of some grocery stores, as well as online, you can buy toaster bags. You butter your bread, add the cheese and place in the bag and put it into the toaster (or toaster oven).  The cheese is melted completely and the bread is crunchy. You can wash and re-use the bags. This is great for people (like your husband maybe?!) who need help with cooking. –Jeannie, email

A Burst of Steam and a Cup o’ Joe


If you are a regular reader of this column you know there are two appliances that get a daily workout at my house—the coffeemaker and steam iron. Over the years I’ve tested many brands, models and options. My conclusion is that for these two items, price does not always indicate a superior product. I prefer what I call the best inexpensives.


When it comes to making coffee and pressing clothes, I don’t need or want fancy options. What I’m looking for are reliable workhorses that can get the job done, don’t need to be coddled and keep working well for a long time.

Here are my recommendations for the two best inexpensive coffeemakers and steam irons—any of which would, in my opinion, make excellent Christmas gifts. But then I also happen to be  one who loves to find household appliances under the tree:

Yes You Can Save


How’s your health? Not your physical fitness, but your financial well-being. For most of us, how much we earn tells us how we’re “feeling” financially. But your income is only one part of the equation. How much of your income do you actually keep? Not very much, I’ll bet. Your income is low, you say; you’ve got bills to pay. Gas prices are sky-high, grocery costs are through the roof—who can possibly save?


My answer: You can. Here are simple things you can do today to get going:

SELL OUT. Go through every cupboard, closet and drawer. If you aren’t using it regularly, get rid of it on eBay or have the mother of all yard sales. A typical sale could raise $500 or more when you start to unload your white elephants. There! You’ve cleaned out the house and you’ve got a pile of cash to show for it.