Readers in Search of Help with Ants and Sharks

The best part of my job as your humble columnist is the mail I get from my loyal readers. I had to laugh today when the first two letters I pulled from my inbox requested help with ants and … sharks!

 

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Dear Mary: Once again this summer, I am dealing with an invasion of ants in my kitchen. Please advise. Exterminators are terribly expensive. Lola

Dear Lola: You’re not the only one! I’ve been hearing from so many readers who are frantic to know how to get rid of  carpenter ants, sugar ants, fire ants, acrobat ants … big ants, tiny ants and every kind of ant imaginable—even crazy ants!

Fortunately, I have a solution for you that is inexpensive, natural and completely safe to use around  kids and pets—a very effective tactic I wrote about recently, and am happy to repeat.

Food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) will take care of this problem and continue to work as long as it stays dry. It is available in most garden centers and home improvement stores and also online at Amazon. I just checked and you can get Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade 10 Lbs from Amazon with Prime free shipping for about $22.

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How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes, are nasty creatures. They bite, they transmit terrible diseases to people and pets and from what I read, have no redeeming value in the ecosystem.

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Malaria infects some 247 million people worldwide each year, and kills nearly one million. Mosquitoes spread yellow fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, Chikungunya virus and West Nile virus.

If that’s not reason enough to hate them, they can turn a beautiful backyard, deck or patio into a nightmare area not fit for humans during mosquito season. But it doesn’t have to be that way provided you are diligent to take control of your home and property.

MOSQUITO TRAP. It’s been more than a year since our big move and discovering we would be having a mosquito problem here in northern Colorado. My research knew no bounds. Given the size of our property, I purchased a Dynatrap, about $130. The trap emits harmless CO2, which mosquitoes find irresistible (no wonder they love you so much—you emit CO2, too). Powered by electricity, this Dynatrap also has a water tray to attract mosquitoes and a fan that sucks the unsuspecting critters into the trap. Every few weeks I empty my mosquito morgue I mean trap. A full trap is proof positive that this thing is very effective. Dynatrap is whisper quiet and definitely not a bug zapper. No sizzling noises, odors or other annoyances. I give Dynatrap two thumbs up and five stars, too. 

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Selling? Get Top $$ for Your House

So you’re getting ready to sell your house. Just thinking about it can be an overwhelming experience.

Should you hire a Realtor? Do a FSBO (for sale by owner) to keep from paying that big commission? Should you spend a lot of money to paint and re-carpet—at least the front rooms? Where do you start and what can you do to make sure you attract a qualified buyer as quickly as possible?

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HIRE A PROFESSIONAL. A Realtor who is successfully moving properties in your neighborhood and comes with references will likely get you a better price for your home than you could get on your own. Most non-professionals (owner sellers) end up losing more in the transaction than the commission they would have paid a professional.

NO RADICAL CHANGES. Should you remodel the kitchen? Replace fixtures in the bathrooms? Probably not, unless those fixtures are not working. Frequently such updates and changes done to achieve a higher sales price don’t pay off. Almost anyone buying your home will want to make their own changes, so you are not likely to recoup that investment of time and money. Unless your Realtor recommends major changes like a new roof or exterior paint job, hold off and put your energy into other areas.

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The Best Inexpensive Double Stroller

There are few joys in life that rival the joy that children bring. But nothing has surprised me more than how that joy is multiplied when we get to add the word “grand” to the children in our lives. Double joy!

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Dear Mary: Thank you for your column, I really enjoy it! Based on your recommendation, we purchased your “Best Inexpensive Stroller” hoping it would stand up against the cobblestones of Rome, Italy.

Well, after three months of living in Rome with our two-year-old little girl, I can tell you the stroller did fantastically! It held up great over miles and miles of walking, cobblestones, was simple for travel within airports, and perfect for tight squeezes onto buses, trams, and trains! It was an ideal investment, so thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. You truly bless the lives of those you reach. With gratitude, Barbara.

Dear Barbara: I’m both excited and jealous: Excited that you love that stroller as much as I do and jealous because I would love to spend three months in Rome with my grandsons, over miles and miles of cobblestones.

Did you notice? I said grandsons! Eli age 7 is now big brother to Sam, age 1. The fun in my Fridays has doubled now that Sam is old enough to join us. Catch up for recent readers: Since Eli was six-weeks old, I’ve cared for him on Fridays. My original intent was to gift my Fridays to my kids to give them a day to breathe. But as it turns out, this has become the greatest gift they could have ever given me.

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The Crockpot Casserole Slow Cooker: A Review

A few weeks ago I told you that I would be testing and then reviewing the 3.5-Quart Crockpot Casserole Slow Cooker. What’s different about this slow cooker from the typical slow cooker is its shape. The stoneware insert is a 9” x 13” rectangular baking dish that is the perfect size and shape to cook and serve casseroles, lasagnas and other great dishes.

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Crockpot Casserole Slow Cooker

The casserole Crockpot is available in several colors as well as two models: Manual with settings of Low, High and Keep Warm (about $40) and a Programmable version with digital controls that offer cook temps of Low, High and Keep Warm and times ranging from 30 minutes to 20 hours. (About $60). I have the manual version. For my needs and lifestyle it’s perfect. If necessary I can plug it into an ordinary appliance timer to set the end time.

The Crockpot Casserole Slow Cooker has an awesome feature in its secure-fit locking lid. For me, this makes it portable. And serving straight from this slow cooker is more than ideal. It’s charming because the 9” x 13” dish is white and very attractive. I can place the entire appliance on the mea table to keep its contents warm, or simply lift the pan from the slow cooker and place it on the table.

I’ve made dessert, several casseroles and lasagna so far and I could not be happier. While this won’t replace my traditional 7-quart slow cooker, it is going to be a well-used option for recipes that are more casserole-like. 

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Survival Debt

For years I’ve been telling my readers there are two kinds of debt: safe debt and toxic debt.

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Safe debt is secured debt―it has collateral connected to it. Your home mortgage is a safe debt. You had to qualify for it, so at least one person somewhere looked at your financial situation determined that you can afford it.

If things change and you can’t or you change your mind and want out of the debt, there’s a way out. You can sell the collateral or just hand it over to the lender and call it even. Safe debt gives you a way out. You have the equivalent of a safety net so you don’t ruin your life.

Toxic debt, on the other hand, is stupid debt you get on your signature alone without qualifying, without anyone caring about whether or not you can afford it.

Toxic, poisonous debt comes from allowing credit purchases to revolve on a credit-card account, opting to pay only the minimum monthly payment. It’s the terrible reality of spending sprees and frivolous decisions.

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With Apologies to Pawn Shops Everywhere

In the wake of America’s big economic wake-up call back in 2008, dollar stores and thrift stores have seen a big resurgence. And now another kind of retail quasi-lender is commanding all kinds of attention from sellers and buyers, too: pawn shops.

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I admit to having grown up with a weird bias against pawn shops. To me pawn shops were just one level above Vinny the Loan Shark operating illegally in some dark alley in the bad part of town just waiting to break some knees. Where did that come from? I have no idea really, but let me quickly follow by saying it is a most faulty stereotype. Pawn shops are respectable businesses that offer a viable service in many communities. And these days business is booming.

A pawn shop, owned and operated by a pawn broker, makes secured loans on personal property left as collateral. The property can be redeemed by the customer when the loan plus interest is repaid. Think: secured loans.

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No More Sleeping Through the Alarm and Other Favorite Tips

Surprise! Today, instead of sharing tips you’ve sent to me, I’ve decided to hog the entire column to share some of my own. Several of these are oldies but goodies, while some I have discovered recently. I do love great tips.

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CELLPHONE ALARM VOLUME BOOSTER. If you’re a heavy sleeper and have trouble hearing your mobile phone’s alarm, you can boost the volume by setting it in a glass drinking glass. This works because the sound reverberates and intensifies inside the glass. It may not be the world’s most pleasant amplification technique, but it works great for an alarm. As an added benefit, to turn the alarm off you have to actually pull the phone out of the glass. This makes it a bit more likely that you’ll actually get up and not roll over to fall back asleep.

NEVER LOSE THE REMOTE AGAIN. The reason most of us misplace the remote controls to our TVs and other electronic devices is they don’t have a specific place to go. They might end up on a coffee table, an end table, slide behind the couch or, as I have experienced, right into a trash can to never be seen again. One person whose handiwork I find to be so clever, stuck his remote controls to a coffee table with Velcro. Any fabric or craft store sells this stuff by the inch or in packages with both the hook and loop sides of the Velcro outfitted with self-stick tape. His choice is black sticky-back Velcro. He cuts off the amount of product he needs for the task at hand, removes the protective paper covering the sticky sides and affixes one side to the remote and the other to the table. It’s true: When a remote control device has a home, it’s more likely to go there regularly.

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