Let’s Hear It for These Three Companies and Their Great Customer Service

Part of me cannot believe we’re going to do this again. Six years ago my husband and I (he the craftsman/remodeler, I the cheerleader) remodeled our kitchen in California.


It turned out so well and improved the value of our home beyond our expectations that we decided to sell that house and relocate to Colorado.

At least a year ago, we got the bug to do it again. It’s not that this kitchen is awful, it’s that it’s inefficient and needs an update. We’re going to do it.

While the actual work is a lot of work is a lot of work, the planning and decision-making on the front end are not easy. In some ways even harder.

After months and months of research and going back and forth and looking at more refrigerators than I knew existed, finally we made the decision on the appliances. And three days ago we completely changed our minds, based on one thing: customer service.

We went online and waded through dozens of review sites only to find that the brand and models we’d chosen revealed the worst customer service on earth together with a high “fail rate” for the very items on our list.


The Heartbreak of Ink Stains on Leather and How to Remove

A new leather sofa or handbag—so beautiful. Or perhaps it’s the car you’ve had for a long time—the one with leather upholstery that still looks fantastic because that you’ve babied and protected it against spills and stains.

Somehow through the course of life, that beautiful leather gets hit with an ink stain.


Here’s what happened to Dana,  who recently wrote:

While working, I placed an ink pen in the back pocket of my jeans. Later, I realized the pen was not there, only locate it in the seat of my car. Apparently it had slipped out of my pocket and wrote on the leather seats—blue ink on tan leather—before I realized it had gotten out. Not a pretty sight, especially considering I have no kids to blame it on!

Leather can be tricky because there are so many variables. Is the leather finished or unfinished? Is the ink stain fresh or has it been there for a long time? What kind of ink is it—ballpoint, Sharpie®, gel?

Because of the variables, there are a number of remedies, all of which do work to remove ink stains from leather in certain situations. You may have to make multiple attempts until you find one that works for your particular leather and situation.

So go through the steps below until you hit on the one that works for your specific ink-on-leather challenge.


Readers Share Even More Brilliant Uses for Blue Dawn

I’m not certain when a subject becomes a saga, but I think we may have crossed over into saga territory on the subject of terrific ways to use Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid that have nothing to do with washing dishes.

Seriously, these days, I can’t wait to open my inbox to see if there could possibly be any more.

And the saga continues …

Dear Mary: In response to the reader who wrote to you reporting that he uses Blue Dawn for both shampoo and body wash, I decided to try it myself, even though my hair is color-treated and I was slightly hesitant. I raved about the great results to my husband and now he’s hooked too. But here’s the most amazing thing: I have been plagued with eczema on my hands and arms for years. Nothing would take it away. Since showering with Blue Dawn, my eczema has completely disappeared. I am thrilled beyond belief with this wonderful product. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth: This is amazing and I do not say that lightly! I’m not only stunned by this news but so happy you have found this relief with Blue Dawn. Who would have guessed?

However, and I must be very clear about this—I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. I can in no way suggest to anyone, anywhere that Blue Dawn should be used as a treatment for eczema or any other medical condition or that anyone might possibly experience the same relief from eczema as you have.

Now I can get back to my Happy Dance.


Money Leaks That May Be Draining Your Wallet Dry

What would it feel like to check your bank balance and find a pile of money you didn’t know you had? Stop wasting money on goods and services that don’t matter in the long run. By plugging all the money leaks in your life, it’s possible you could see the equivalent of working a second job in your wallet.

Buying from a TV or Internet ad

Face it, infomercial products are overpriced and hardly ever turn out to be as wonderful as depicted. And those risk-free trial periods? Don’t believe it. You’ll have to pay the return shipping costs plus a restocking fee if you ever get around to it.

Plug the money leak: Whenever tempted by an infomercial product, take a second to look up the item on eBay. You’ll be shocked to find dozens at a fraction of the price because that’s where they unload all the “as seen on TV” products that get returned. Ask yourself, why so many returns? By then the infomercial should be over and you can get on with your day.

How much you can save: How about those three easy payments of $49.95? Plus shipping and handling. And the shipping charges to return it during the “free” trial period.

Impulsive crafting

Remember the beading supplies and tools you bought because you were sure you’d love the activity but are now sitting in your basement? Or how about the entire scrapbooking outfit that seemed so perfect when you attended a home party? Did the albums even make it out of the bag? It’s way too easy for those of us who share the impulsive gene to make snap decisions.

Plug the money leak: Instead of jumping in with both feet, sign up for a class to check out a new hobby. A few sessions will tell you how committed you are to the craft. And if you decide it’s a go, visit an auction website like eBay.com, Amazon.com auctions and Overstock.com auctions. You’ll be amazed by what you can find for sale by others who got a bit too anxious and bought the whole caboodle.

How much you can save: When you consider that enough yarn to knit a sweater can cost $75 or more, or that a beginning scrapbook kit costs about $115, looking before you leap could keep hundreds in your wallet.


How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets and Keep Them Looking Gorgeous

Kitchen cabinets are for storing dishes, not grease. Unfortunately, wood cabinets—painted or natural with a clear finish—are prone to all sorts of grease, grime, and gunk from simply being in the kitchen.

woman-cleaning-supplies-clean-gunk-grime-kitchen cabinets

Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, here are four options for your consideration. At least one of these will help to get the job done—plus one final tip for how to keep your clean cabinets looking gorgeous!

1. BLUE DAWN. Apply a few drops of Blue Dawn, into a bowl of warm water. Dip the soft side of a sponge in it. Squeeze the sponge until suds form. The cleaning agents in Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes. Apply to the dirty cabinet, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed. Immediately dry the surfaces with a clean cloth. This will prevent streaking.

2. KITCHEN GUNK REMOVER. Bust through hardened, dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. Mix one-part any vegetable oil to two-parts baking soda. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth or paper towel. That ugly, greasy, dirty build-up on cabinets will begin to soften and start to disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

3. WHITE VINEGAR. Vinegar is not just for making pickles and salad dressing. It has amazing grease-busting, cleaning ability, too. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar, and wipe down greasy cabinets. Rinse your cloth with warm water, wring out most of the moisture, and use it to rinse the cabinetry. Dry the damp surfaces with a paper towel, noting any still-sticky spots that need a second attempt. Repeated applications of vinegar may, over time begin to dull the finish. However, an occasional use as suggested here, will not be a problem.

4. SOAP AND PAINT THINNER. This is a heavy-duty, industrial strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing that it could remove a layer of the finish. Mix equal parts of paint thinner and Murphy Oil Soap. Apply with a sponge or paintbrush. Wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt; you’ll likely remove a thin layer of varnish or shellac, because the grime may have melded with it. Considering the alternative of living with the dirty cabinets, I’d go with clean and a slightly less finish. As always, test first in an inconspicuous place.

Related: Simple Tips to Keep Things Beautiful and Working Well Around the House

TIP: WOOD POLISH AND CONDITIONER. After a rigorous cleaning, wood cabinets are thirsty for moisture and protection. But you want to be careful that you don’t make matters worse by using something that will create a new kind of build-up that becomes a magnet to kitchen grease and grime. You won’t find a better product to do that than Howard Feed-n-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil to keep the wood from drying out, while at the same time repelling kitchen grease. Fantastic for all of the wood surfaces in your home—not only kitchen cabinets.


The 4 Make-Your-Own-Mixes You Asked For!

They’re convenient and tasty, but the high cost of your favorite prepared mixes and spice blends is enough to make you choke right there in the supermarket!


In less time than it takes you to run to the market to pick up a box of Bisquick or a few packets of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix, you can make them yourself—and save a bundle in the process.

Here for your mixing pleasure are the four copycat recipes most frequently requested by my dear readers over the past few months.

Whether you requested or not, I’m certain you’re going to enjoy these not only for the money savings but for the joy of knowing exactly what’s in the mixes you use. Plus making mixes yourself gives you the opportunity to tweak and control things like the amount of sodium. Even better, no MSG.

Garlic Seasoning (Copycat Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic)

  • 8 tablespoons dried minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried chives
  • 1 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container like a Mason jar. Use as seasoning for meats, poultry, fish, salads. To make basic Garlic Dip: Combine 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of Garlic Garlic Mix. Start with 1 tablespoon, adding more to taste. Warning: As the dip chills in the fridge, the flavors become very intense. Enjoy!


Ask Me Anything: HE Detergent, Makeup Primer, Cordless Vac, Slow Cooking, DIY Degreaser, Cloudy Glassware

Updated 3-9-18

My fondness for TV game shows’ lighting rounds—the duration of the round is a pre-determined length of time, and the goal is to accomplish as much as possible within that period—may have something to do with my attention span. Lightning round questions are short, the answers quick and concise.

I see we have lots of questions in the audience, so let’s set the clock. Ready? Set … Go!


Q: Do I HAVE to use HE labeled laundry detergent only in my new Whirlpool washer? Why? Pegg

A: Yes. If the owner manual recommends HE detergent, that means it is a high-efficiency washer. HE washers use considerably less water and have sophisticated computer-like electronics. They’re very smart! HE detergent creates no suds or bubbles. The presence of too many suds can confuse washing cycles, cause delays and make proper rinsing of clothes difficult if not impossible. By the way, you can make your own detergent is HE because it creates no suds or bubbles. Recipe and tutorial HERE. Make sure you measure the detergent in every load. I use 2 tablespoons in my HE machine, which seems like not nearly enough,  but it is! Using too much detergent can cause all kinds of problems. Read your manual.

Q: Do you have a favorite makeup primer? I’m wondering if using a primer will help hide some of those tiny lines. Jeannine


The Difference Between Safe Debt and Stupid Debt is Huge

Today, Dear Readers, I have a question for you: Is there a difference between borrowing and financing? Don’t stress. I’ll tell you. There is. Both create debt and understanding the difference is important to your financial health.

You have to think of debt as a rope. You can use rope to lift, rescue, and tie things together. Or you can use it to hang yourself. Debt can improve your life or it can ruin it.


I used to think borrowing and financing were the same. I considered myself involved in high finance with my bevy of credit cards. I charged all kinds of clothes, meals, trips and entertainment. We financed the house, the car and countless household appliances. It was all the same to me. I could have stuff now and pay later. I considered my juggling acts some kind of advanced high finance. I had to learn the difference between borrowing and financing the hard way.

Borrowing is the temporary use of a thing or money, while financing implies the management of assets or money. Borrowing creates unsecured or dangerous debt, while financing creates secured or safe debt.

Borrowing is hazardous to your financial health because it offers no alternatives. No escape routes. You borrowed the money, and you must pay it back from future income. With the unsecured debt, you’ve eliminated options. Mountains of unsecured debt can tie a person to an undesirable career, squelch opportunities or create heavy burdens that are often unbearable.

Depending on money you have not earned yet to pay for stuff you don’t have now or perhaps cannot even remember, is choosing financial bondage. It’s stupid and a crazy way to live.

Financing, on the other hand, involves collateral or “security.” The borrower pledges property, either real (such as a home or land) or personal, and agrees to liquidate that thing of value in the event he or she runs into repayment difficulty. In a financing situation, provision always exists so the debt can be canceled by virtue of the very item that is financed. You finance a car, for example. You come on hard times or change you mind. You sell the car and use the proceeds to satisfy the debt.

Financing allows a person to use assets to achieve a more useful or productive result. Financing is a safe, realistic and reasonable way to purchase a home, for instance. The value of the home secures the repayment.

Financing does not presume unreasonably on the future. Let’s take a real estate purchase, for example. You decide to buy a home, and that cute three-bedroom on a pretty is a great option. For now.

But 10 years from now, you might develop an unrelenting urge to move to Tibet. Even though you still owe $190,000 on the house, it’s no problem. You sell the property, pay off the loan, and head for the hills.

If that $190,000 represented borrowed funds—an unsecured debt—you’d probably be stuck, left to only dream of what mountaintop life might have been had you not so foolishly borrowed away your future.

Learn to recognize the difference between financing and borrowing, then avoid borrowing like the plague. Keep any debt confined to secured, safe debt.

Your future will be filled with options as you learn to say no to the kind of debt that can so easily turn into a noose.