Super Inexpensive Chromebook Laptop Gets Another Rave Review Plus More Reader Feedback

Somedays I stare at my email inbox the way a meteorologist stares at a barometer. While the meteorologist counts on his barometer to forecast the weather, I look to my email inbox to measure and predict your reactions and feedback.

You might recall a recent post on how to use up every last bit of a rotisserie chicken. I have to admit that my thoughts were on how to use up all of the chicken meat. About 10 minutes after that post hit, my inbox started going crazy. I got hundreds of responses scolding me for failure to include making stock from the chicken carcass. Whoops!

A post on a type of very inexpensive laptop brought another tsunami-strength wave of mail—this time from happy, satisfied readers turned Chromebook fans.

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Get Back at Your Creditors

Late fees, punitive interest rates, over-limit fees, loading up your credit report with negative information—it’s enough to make you scream!

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It’s not that your creditors are doing anything illegal. You just didn’t understand the power you gave them when you accepted that credit card (it was buried in the fine print). And now it seems like they’re staying up nights looking for new ways to stick it to you. If you’ve just about had enough, maybe it’s time for you to turn the tables and get back at them.

Pay early. Nearly 30 percent of a credit card company’s profits are derived from fees—annual fees, late fees and over-limit fees. You’d think they would be pretty satisfied with all that interest you send them each month. But no. They want more. The days when issuers allowed 10 or 15 days for a payment to arrive after a due date before charging a fee are long gone. Now those fees kick in if you’re even five minutes late, and can range from $20 to $39 per occurrence.

Get back at your credit card company by making a decision right now to never pay another dime in late fees. Be quick with your payment. Send it in the preprinted envelope that came with your statement (or pay online). Don’t enclose a note, use a paper clip, decorate with stickers or do anything that will pull it out of the fast track and into manual processing.

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How to Trap Wasps and Other Great Reader Tips

Are you aware that your health insurance provider may be willing to cover the cost of your gym membership? Or that all you need to take care of those annoying wasps flying around your home this summer may be as close your food pantry? How about where and how to purchase beautiful high-quality, name-brand men’s belts cheap? Your fellow-readers know and today they’re willing to share.

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WASP CONTROL. It’s that time of year when I’m filling containers with homemade potion to trap the wasps that love to visit my property. I place containers around the yard, pool and patio. Wasps and other various other flying insects are attracted, dive in for a drink and never come out. Here’s the recipe: Mix together 6 oz. (3/4 cup) vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. If you need more, double the recipe. This wasp potion is non-toxic and harmless for kids and pets. Marilyn

INSIDER HOTEL INFO. Always check the hotel website before making a reservation. That’s where you will find our best rates. At the hotel where I work, when you reserve through Travelocity and Expedia, you’ll pay the full rate plus the commission—really pricey! Carey

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Entree Salads that Beat the Heat

It’s summer. It’s hot. The last thing you want to do is heat up the kitchen to make dinner. But before you pick up the phone to make reservations, consider these two words: Entree Salad. Yes!  A big, hearty main-dish salad that takes advantage of the fresh season produce you picked up at a farmer’s market—or right from you own garden—that might also feature grilled fish, chicken salad or even leftover steak or taco meat.

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Here, let me whet your appetite with three of my all-time favorite Entree Salads.

SOUTHERN COBB SALAD

4 to 6 Servings

  • 10 cups mixed lettuces, lightly packed (8 ounces)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 cup thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup radish or other type sprouts
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and sliced
  • Bottled Sweet Onion Dressing

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with 1/2 cup of dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Arrange the remaining ingredients on top and serve, passing the remaining dressing at the table.

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Essential Kitchen Tools Everyone Should Own

Whether you’re a newlywed, recent grad moving into your first apartment or perhaps one of the 32% of millennials that Pew Research Center recently reported as living at home with mom and dad—surely the idea of furnishing a kitchen has crossed your mind. I’d love to help you get started.

Here’s the deal: There are a few basic essential tools you absolutely need, without which you are not likely to use that kitchen for more than a place to pile takeout containers. We’re not talking about mountain of stuff—just ten basic essentials to get started.

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1. FIRE EXTINGUISHER. My personal experience makes this an absolute requirement and number one on the list. It was one of those lazy Saturdays. I decided to make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I set the greased skillet over high heat and ran out to the garage to say something to my husband. A neighbor wandered over and we started talking. It was the smoke alarm that caught my attention and sent me flying. In those few moments that pan flamed out and caught the upper cabinet. My kitchen was on fire! The Kidde Fire Extinguisher (about $40) sitting on the counter saved the day. I am still surprised that I knew, almost intuitively, how to use the thing. Grateful.

2. KNIVES. You need good knives that can be sharpened and which you will keep sharp. And if you can find a set that comes with a wooden block and shears, plus at least a chef knife, carving and paring knives and perhaps even a bread knife like this 13-piece set (about $26) that’s exactly what you need.

3. POTS AND PANS. You can go broke on pots and pans or you can go smart with a high-quality basic set like this Cook N Home 12-Piece Stainless Steel Set (about $55). You want to make sure you have at least a skillet, a couple sauce pans and a larger pot for soups and stock. Each piece in this set comes with a glass lid. About $55.

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You Paid How Much for Your First Computer?!

I just read something that made me laugh out loud—mostly because it’s funny, but also because it is poignantly true. 

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I wonder what my kids are going to tell their kids … ‘It was so rough back in my day. I didn’t get a phone ’til 4th grade and sometimes the wifi didn’t always work upstairs!’”

You’re laughing too, aren’t you! Well, I want to add one more thing: “And back then a computer cost more than a thousand dollars!” I can visualize those kids of the future, slack jawed at the thought of having to pay that much money for a computer. Unthinkable. Right?

Over the years I have owned no fewer than seven computers—mostly because I just beat them to death, but also because I’ve convinced myself that as a writer, I need to be on the cutting edge of technology. 

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Humidity—Not too High Not Too Low, But Just Right

Humidity is a popular topic among friends and neighbors here where I live in northern Colorado. It’s like we have none! Well, not exactly, but it averages in the low to mid 20 percent during the summer and fall months, and that’s dry! We have a humidifier in our home to keep the air moist and it runs 24/7 year round.

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And then there’s the matter of high humidity—a troublesome condition for many—which came to mind when I heard from Will a few days ago.

DEAR MARY: I enjoy reading your daily emails, particularly ones on appliances. Do you have any recommendations for a quality dehumidifier for the home? Thanks in advance! Will

DEAR WILL: Apparently we make a great team, you and I, because I love testing, reviewing and recommending household appliances. I am confident and very happy to recommend two different high-quality machines (depending on the size of the space you have), both of which just happen to come from Frigidaire.

FRIGIDAIRE FAD504DWD Energy Star 50-pint Dehumidifier, about $189. This 50-pints-per-day machine will give you continuous operation in an area up to 1,500 sq. ft., as long as it is near a suitable drain. It will help to eliminate bacteria in the air, room odors, mold, mildew and other airborne particles. This machine is very quiet, and allows you to control the exact percentage of humidity in the room. For the money, I don’t think you can beat this option

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Need Cleaning Supplies? Check the Pantry

The next time you need cleaning supplies, take a trip to your pantry, not the store. You already have the ordinary basic household items required to mix up any number of cleaners you need to keep the place sparkling clean and germ-free. Recipes? You need recipes? Well, this must be your lucky day, because I’ve got recipes!

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All-purpose cleaner. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup plain household ammonia, 1/4 (one-quarter) cup baking soda with 1 gallon warm water. Dispense in a spray bottle.

Window, glass and mirror cleaner. In a spray bottle mix together 2 cups isopropyl rubbing alcohol, 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent and 2 cups water.

Floor cleaner for ceramic tile, vinyl and linoleum floors. Mix together 1 cup white vinegar and 1 gallon hot water. Mop ceramic tile and all types of vinyl floors with this solution, no need to rinse.

Heavy-duty floor cleaner. Mix together 3/4 (three-fourths) cup plain household ammonia and 1 gallon warm water. Use on heavily soiled non-wood floors. No need to rinse.

Wood floor cleaner. Mix together 2 quarts boiling water and steep two regular tea bags in it. Let the water cool to room temperature. Remove bags. Use a well-wrung cloth mop or sponge mop (make sure it is just barely damp) to wipe the floor. The tannic acid in tea is great for the wood and leaves a beautiful shine.

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