How to Make a Better Fruit Fly Trap


In a recent column I showed you how to make a very effective fruit fly trap. I thought my trap was quite effective because I caught those flies that were driving me nuts. Then I got an email message from reader Betty, who offered a couple of improvements. I immediately upgraded my trap accordingly. So much better.

Photo Credit:

photo credit:

DELUXE FRUIT FLY TRAP. I make fruit fly traps and just put apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and mix in  a little bit of dish washing soap. The soap breaks the tensile strength of the surface of the water and the fruit flies sink and drown. No plastic wrap needed.

I have heard of using saran wrap on top of the bowl and poking small holes in the top—apparently they can get in and not out, but I have great success with just the bowl, vinegar and dish soap. –Betty B., email

How to Pull the Plug on Cable or Satellite


Want to put a thousand bucks back into your wallet in the coming year? If you’re paying around $100 per month now, pulling that plug would more than do it and without leaving you high and dry for TV entertainment.

If even the thought of such an extreme measure feels for all the world like losing your favorite binky, I understand. Oh boy do I.


It’s been three months now since we cancelled our cable TV service, loaded up the cable box, DVR and remote control and dropped them off at the local Time Warner office. While I can’t say we dialed our monthly entertainment costs back to $0, we have reduced the cost by more than $100 a month.

What we had before: Basic cable service including several premium sports packages like ESPN and movie channels. My husband is a sports fanatic, while I approach the level of “junkie” when it comes to cable news.

What we have now: Local free broadcast channels and access to movies, TV and sports that are available live and otherwise, online as well as an audio feed for cable news channels. 

Who Else Could Use a Personal Assistant?


Do you have any idea how much money you spend each month to feed your family? Even if you think you know, you may be shocked to learn the truth.

Recently I heard from a reader in Ohio who decided to keep track of how much she spent on food for one entire month. She was all but speechless when she told me it came to more than $850. On food. Now, had she planned to spend that much as part of a carefully charted  budget, that would be one thing. But this is the same person who’d told me previously that she thought that number was more like $450 “at the most.”


It’s no secret that food costs are skyrocketing. Every week I am amazed if not worried. While we can’t control the cost of food, we can control the ways that we spend our food dollars.

There’s more at play that just the cost of food. There’s the time required to track sales, shop carefully then prepare and cook our meals. I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get. I rely on multiple sources, but probably none as much as the online menu planning service, This is simply genius. Here’s how it works: 

The Art of the Grilled Cheese Sandwich


A surefire signal that I’m out of town is the big square burn mark in my best stainless skillet. That’s the tale tell sign my husband has attempted to prepare the one and only item on his repertoire of home cooked meals: A grilled cheese sandwich.

The man doesn’t know how to cook.

His grilled cheese sandwiches are burned on the outside, solid on the inside. Poor guy. When it comes to this basic all-American favorite, Harold does just about everything wrong. He starts with a blazing hot skillet, uses cold butter and unevenly sliced cheese with the thickest parts of the cheese piled up in the middle of the sandwich. This man really needs his wife.


There’s an art to preparing a perfect grilled cheese sandwich that is crispy, golden brown on the outside, soft on the inside with cheese that is evenly melted. 

Miraculous Solutions for Two of Life’s Little Problems


Dear Mary: A red rag somehow managed its way into a load of what used to be white clothes. How can I get the pink tint out of the clothing and return them bright white?

–Anne P., email

 Dear Anne: Three words: Rit Color Remover. Find it where Rit Dye is sold. It’s miraculous.

Dear Mary: I just bought my granddaughter an old (1927) edition of my favorite children’s book, “Heidi.”  It stinks!   Is there any way to get rid of that smell?  Thanks. –Patricia, email

All rights reserved by lorryx3

All rights reserved by lorryx3

Dear Patricia: The minute I read your message I connected with you on two counts: Heidi was my favorite book as a child and I can’t stand that smell of old, musty, mildewy books.

Somewhere along the line this book got left out in the rain or was stored under damp conditions. What you smell is mold.

A Clever Knit Bit and More Great Reader Tips


Today’s first tip is going to make my fellow hand knitters wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Is this just the greatest idea ever? I couldn’t wait to share this and other clever tips with you today.

SPIN DRY. I love using a salad spinner as a quick way to get the water out of a knitting project before blocking. Yay, centrifugal force! –Kathleen, Washington


CARPET CLEAN-UP. Baby wipes get every stain you can imagine out of carpet! I use Pampers Natural Clean(unscented). This works on coffee, chocolate and even blood stains. Baby wipes are cheap and it takes about 2 seconds to remove the stain. Example: My little boy fell and cut his head, leaving blood spots on the carpet. He’s fine, but the carpet suffered. When the carpet cleaning service couldn’t remove the spots I decided to hit them with a baby wipe. It was amazing. My mom had 11-year old stubborn stains on her carpet and the wipes took them out, too. Baby wipes are my carpet spotter of choice because they’re so easy to use. –Annette, Pennsylvania

How to Make a Simple Fruit Fly Trap


Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, and I go way back to my high school biology class and a unit on genetics. We raised fruit flies in little Petri dishes. Then we’d anesthetize them to put them to sleep so we could look at them through the microscope to see how our genetic predictions sized up with the number and gender of babies born overnight. It was great fun.

#1 fruit fly

The most amazing thing, however, was not how easy it was to understand dominant traits and inherited characteristics, but how fast those suckers multiplied.

Fruit flies live to find fermenting fruit. They can detect the smell of ripe fruits and vegetables from miles away. If there’s a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter, there’s probably a swarm of fruit flies looking for a way into your home to get to it. Because these insects are so tiny, they can get in through window screens or crevices around windows or doors. Once inside, they reproduce. Before you know it, you’re dealing with a full-fledged fruit fly infestation.

How to Make Groceries Last Even Longer


A recent column on the proper storage for fresh fruits and vegetables generated a lot of great reader feedback—plus dozens of new tips and tricks to make all grocery items last longer. I love this stuff so much I must admit to being slightly compulsive–gathering, testing and assessing techniques. Here are a few of my new favorites:


BERRIES: Are you familiar with that sick feeling that comes when you notice that the berries you bought yesterday are already showing signs of mold and turning brown? Here’s the remedy: As soon as you bring them into the kitchen prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) and ten parts water. Give berries a bath in the mixture. Swirl them around a bit the gently drain, rinse, and place in the refrigerator. Don’t worry. The solution is so weak you will not taste the vinegar. This treatment should give your strawberries an additional two weeks of useful life and raspberries a week or more. Vinegar retards the grow of bacteria that causes berries to spoil so quickly.

POTATOES: To keep potatoes from growing big ugly sprouts before you have time to use them up, store them with a couple of apples. For some reason, that really works to halt the sprouting.