Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets

For some time I’ve been toying with whether or not to write this column. You can see I’ve made my decision. Here’s a little back story to explain my conflict.

When it comes to bedding, I am particular. It’s not a matter of decor or brand. It’s the way the sheets feel. They have to be smooth and wrinkle-free. The sheets have to breathe and not stick to me. But they can’t be slick, slippery, crunchy or noisy, either. The weave has to be tight and they can’t feel like sandpaper.

Seriously, if the sheets are not right, I don’t sleep well. And by well I mean sound asleep—not tossing, turning and constantly waking up.

For me, sheets have to fit well, too. The fitted sheet cannot pop off the corners of the mattress; but it can’t be too big, so as to become baggy and then prone to bunching up. Above all, my sheets must be 100% cotton. Not linen, not microfiber or polyester or any other type of fiber or blend thereof.

There was a time when decent sheets were common and affordable. I don’t know what’s happened there, but I  blame it on synthetic fibers—microfiber, polyester and their related manmade fiber-cousins that are cheap to manufacture.

We used to depend on the word “percale” to be the sign of a great sheet, but truth be told percale has nothing to do with fiber content. Percale refers to a type of tight weave. I’ve been fooled by percale sheets that turn out to be polyester percale or microfiber percale—not the fine cotton percale we remember from childhood.

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Put Yourself on an Allowance

It used to be that when I felt broke, I chased away the horrible feeling by turning to my bevy of credit cards. As long as I could spend money, it felt like I had money. And the more I used my credit cards to prove to myself that I wasn’t really broke, the more debt I created until finally I couldn’t fake it any longer.

It took me thirteen years to get out of the financial mess I got my family into. It was bad. But I did it and in the process I learned a very important lesson: No matter the situation, all of us need some money we can call our own.

At some point during that long journey back to financial health, my husband and I agreed to put me on an allowance. It changed everything for me. As long as I had my own money and it wasn’t money I was sneaking out of the account in hopes that he would not find out, I didn’t feel broke. And when I didn’t feel broke, I was much more willing to be frugal with the rest of our income. My change of attitude made all the difference.

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A Vanilla Bean Hedge Fund

Back in 2013, I bought half a pound of Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans for $34.95, to make a pure vanilla extract for Christmas gifts,

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In 2016, because I didn’t want to run short as by then my homemade vanilla extract had become so popular with friends and family, I made a second purchase of the same quantity of vanilla beans from the same company. The price had suddenly become $66.95. It was shocking, but considering how many gifts I knew I could make from a half pound—plus never having to worry about running out for my own baking needs—I took a deep breath and carried on.

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One year later, I’m grateful I made that purchase. Today, the price of one-half-pound of Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans from the same company has skyrocketed to $276 (that’s $552 per lb.). The reason? A tragic vanilla bean shortage with global outreach. That story is HERE.

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Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!

It was a silly bedtime rhyme we said when we were kids—a line that meant nothing to me other than it was funny. Goodnight, sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite! 

Years later I would learn that bedbugs are real and they are no laughing matter.

Bedbugs are parasitic insects of the cimicid family that feed exclusively on blood. They’re tiny, nocturnal and able to hide in cracks and crevices. They’re also really good hitchhikers, jumping into luggage from an infested hotel room or hiding in the seams zippers of clothing manufactured in an infested factory.

A problem worldwide, bedbugs are resurging, causing property loss, expense, and inconvenience. The good news, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) is bedbugs do not transmit disease. But they can torment their blood hosts in ways I won’t go into here. The best way to prevent bedbugs is with a regular inspection for signs of an infestation—droppings, bite marks and mysterious blood stains on bedding.

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Ask Me Anything: Chromebook, Oven Grates, Best Inexpensive Curling Iron, Fluffy Soft Towels

I don’t know where I first heard it, but I sure do believe it: “Teaching teaches the teacher!” I love your questions because they keep me on my toes and always learning.

Would I be able to use QuickBooks on the Asus Chromebook laptop computer you recommend as your Best Inexpensive pick?

If you use QuickBooks Online you should have no issues. A Chromebook won’t run the actual software version of QuickBooks, but if you are able to access it from a web browser the way that QuickBooks Online works, then a Chromebook should work just fine.

Is there an easy and time-efficient way to clean stainless steel oven grates/racks? I was advised not to leave them in oven during the self-clean cycle.

My favorite method is to spray them with Dawn Dish Power Dissolver spray cleaner. I’m mostly heartbroken that Procter and Gamble has discontinued manufacturing this cleaner, but happy that it is still available in limited quantities. The problem is finding it. So far and as I write, you can still get Dawn Dish Power Dissolver online. I’m harboring a couple of cases, which I intend to make last for a very long time. A reasonable alternative, also from P&G, is Dawn Heavy Duty Degreaser. If your kitchen sink isn’t large enough to accommodate those racks, consider scrubbing them in a bathtub. Just make sure you lay a towel or mat on the bottom of the tub first to prevent damaging the tub surface.

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Appliance Maintenance You Can Do Yourself

It was Christmas Eve. Company would be arriving in a matter of hours. I opened the refrigerator only to discover everything inside had reached a balmy 70 F. This could not have happened at a worse time.

Away to my computer I flew like a flash, straight to RepairClinic.com, where I entered the make and model of our refrigerator and read all the possibilities for why it was running but not cooling.

By following the suggestions and detailed instructions, we performed eight years’ worth of maintenance by looking under the darned thing for the coils that had become hopelessly covered in refrigerator gunk. We were back up and cooling in no time at all.

One thing I learned from my holiday refrigerator crash is that, like cars, major appliances require routine maintenance to keep them working at the peak of efficiency and to guarantee a long and useful life.

Here are five simple appliance maintenance jobs all home dwellers should do—each of which takes only minutes and can be tackled by anyone.

DISHWASHER RACKS

Inspect the dish rack tines for rusting. Rust particles can ruin the pump and seals, causing a hidden leak or pump failure.

A tine repair kit, available at manufacturer websites or Amazon, can save you the cost of a new dish rack. The kits come in various colors to match yours. If the dish rack is beyond salvation, it should be replaced.

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Irregular Income, Erasing Credit-Card Debt and an Overdrafting Fiancé

Every week I get at least a couple of letters from readers whose situations prompt them to start out something like, “I’m embarrassed to ask, but ….” Then they pour out their hearts, often lamenting what they believe to be their own stupidity and ignorance. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The only stupid questions are those we don’t ask because we’re afraid of what other might think. It warms my heart to know that so many of my dear readers find my inbox a safe place for even their most embarrassing questions.

Q: My husband has two jobs—he is an artist and a salesman. He earns commissions from both jobs so we never know what our income will be. I work part-time and am paid hourly. I’m so embarrassed to admit that I have no idea how to go about setting up a budget. Is our situation impossible?

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A Dozen Ways to Make Dump Chicken

It’s called Dump Chicken and it’s genius. Here’s why: You dump chicken pieces and your choice of sauce ingredients into a 1-gallon freezer bag, seal it and stick it in the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, dump it into a pan (or slow cooker) and bake it. That’s it!

The following recipes can be made with any four to eight pieces of chicken; bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless, even whole. Experiment to see what you prefer. Simply mix the sauce ingredients and toss that into the bag along with the chicken; seal and freeze.

Note: If you are adding a lot more or a lot less chicken, you may need to adjust the recipes accordingly.

To cook the chicken, thaw the bag overnight in the refrigerator. Pour the contents of the bag into a 9 x 12-inch pan and bake at 350 F until internal temperature reaches 165F. Or prepare these meals in a slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours. In the oven, chicken breasts take about 25 to 45 minutes depending on their thickness. Dark meat pieces may take a bit longer.

Basic BBQ Chicken

  • chicken
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dry onion soup mix

Caribbean Chicken

  • chicken
  • 1 (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks with juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
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