I have to be honest about sports. I’m there for the good times: World Series, Olympics and of course the Super Bowl and even then, for me it’s all about their food. Sure I’ll be there front and center on Sunday, cheering for the Broncos (sue me), breathlessly waiting for the next commercial while enjoying some decadent party food.

Today I want to share with you my most favorite, best ever party dips. No one would consider any of these healthy food and for that I do not apologize. After all, we don’t do this every day. So let’s lighten up and get ready to party!

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photo credit: CookingChannelTv.com

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What I know about how to buy a mattress I’ve learned from the best: Insiders who have retired from the sleep product industry and have been willing to share what they know.

CONFUSION FACTOR. It is impossible to compare by make and model from one store to another.  No wonder mattress retailers are so quick to promise that if you can find the same mattress at a lower price they’ll give it to you for free. They know that will never happen because no other store carries that exact mattress.

photo credit: mattress1st.com

photo credit: mattress1st.com

SHOP BY LEVEL. Each mattress manufacturer makes “levels” of mattresses for the stores that sell their brand: Very cheap, decent cheap, good and best. That’s not what they call them, but you can tell by the pricing within each manufacturer’s line of products.

PRICE MATTERS. A very cheap mattress is about 10 percent materials (foam, steel, padding) and 90 percent air. A mid-level mattress is about 40 percent materials and so on. The more material, the better the product and the higher the price. A high-quality mattress will be 90 percent materials which means it will be the heaviest of those you try to lift. Go ahead, lift the corner of a mattress. If it’s light as a feather you can be sure it is a very cheap, low quality mattress. Read more

 

I am always entertained and often educated by the tips readers mail in. Today is no exception. I’m pretty sure you’re about to agree with me.

ART SHOW. I love to see the artwork that my young boys bring home from school, but we can’t keep all of it. Instead, I take photos of each piece of artwork with my digital camera and put the pictures on my digital photo frame at work. That way, I can see their artwork all the time and it doesn’t clutter my house. Erin J. Illinois

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SAFELY FROZEN. I am on a waiting list to get a safe deposit box at my bank. While I wait I am keeping my important papers in a heavy freezer bag, in the deep freeze. I hear that in a fire the inside of the freezer doesn’t burn easily. Jill N., Florida 

GREASE CUTTER. I keep white vinegar in a used detergent bottle by my kitchen sink. When I have something greasy to wash, I squirt a small amount of vinegar into the dish. This works wonders in containers that have had tomato sauce or some other tomato product in them. The vinegar quickly cuts the film of grease and residue.  Janet M., Florida Read more

Want to stop spending so much of your hard earned money on utility bills? Check out these clever gadgets that will keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket—not your utility providers’—year after year.

Each of these projects can be completed in 15 minutes or less and requires no advanced skills or special equipment.

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HOT WATER-SAVING SHOWER HEAD

If you multi-task while waiting for your shower to warm up—making the bed or pot of coffee—the hot water could have been running for minutes, wasting water and adding unnecessary dollars to your utility bills.

The Ladybug Showerhead adapter saves the hot water. At about $20, Ladybug is so smart, it senses the moment the water is warm and stops the flow to a tiny trickle. When you’re ready, just flip a switch to restart the normal flow.

This adapter saveS $75 in hot water cost plus 2,700 gallons of water each year, based on a family of three showering daily and saving one minute of hot water per shower.

SOCKET SEALERS

You can cut 10 percent from your energy costs by properly sealing and insulating areas around the home to make it as air tight as possible. Start with all of the light switches and electrical outlets.

Install foam inserts (about 15 cents each) to stop warmed or cooled air from being sucked out of the house through the air gaps around every switch and outlet. Simply remove the cover plate, pop in a gasket and replace the plate. Read more

 

What would you do if you had to actually use—or at least enjoy—everything you own?

Truth be told, most of us will never live long enough to accomplish such an overwhelming task. Instead we pack it, stack it and pile it away—even pay rent to store it—and keep right on accumulating, acquiring and attaining even more. More doesn’t add to our joy the way we thought it would. More stuff only dilutes the quality of our lives.

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Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, “discovered” the 80/20 principle in 1897 when he observed that 80 percent of the land in England (and every country he subsequently studied) was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has since been widely proven and applied to almost every aspect of modern life including the things we own.

So let’s think this through: If 80 percent of what we use comes from 20 percent of what we own, 80 percent of the space in our lives is occupied by stuff we never use—it’s clutter!  Read more

 

In a recent column at a reader’s request, I offered a recipe for beef gravy mix. The responses poured in—some with rave reviews, others with requests of their own. The top three mix requests were for Taco Seasoning Mix, Chicken Gravy Mix and Country Gravy Mix.

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You know there are no lengths to which I will not go to keep my readers happy, and today is no exception. Enjoy!  Read more

 

Dear Mary: In a recent column, a reader wrote saying it didn’t work to call her credit card company to ask them to lower her credit card’s interest rate. Your response reminded me that I had a 14.99 percent interest rate on a Visa card with a credit union that I have belonged to for 32 years.

I made the call and simply asked for a review of my account. I went on to explain that I wanted to pay off my card without intervention of a third party but with my high interest rate, I wasn’t making much of a dent in a very high balance.

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I got an immediate response by email with an offer of 10.99 percent. I accepted and asked if I changed the rewards card to a regular card, could it decrease the percent (I had heard in the past it could reduce the interest rate by a percent). To my surprise, they said if I went to a premium Visa or MasterCard, that it would decrease to 8.99 percent. Needless to say, I am ecstatic and so thankful for your reminder to keep trying.

Thank you for all you do to help us work through the stresses of financial bondage. Sandy O., email Read more

 

Every week, reader tips arrive in my inbox and my mail box, too. Without fail, there’s at least one that is so great, it makes me wonder why I didn’t think of that. Take today’s first tip is for how to change homemade spaghetti sauce from ordinary to awesome. Who knew it could be this easy.

AWESOME SAUCE. When making homemade spaghetti sauce the tomatoes can be a bit acidic, and that can ruin the flavor. Try adding a few pinches of baking soda. It will fizz up at first, but just continue to stir it in and the result will be a slightly sweeter sauce. Laurie B., Maine

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YOU FREEZE I FREEZE. I like to cruise through the frozen food aisles at my favorite warehouse club to see what’s new. I figure if they can freeze it, so can I. On a recent trip I saw a long line of people waiting for samples. I looked to see what it was, only to discover rice! Frozen pre-cooked plain white rice. People seemed to think that was the greatest invention ever and they were all tossing it in their carts. I went home, pulled out the rice cooker, made my own … and froze it.  Rebecca M., Washington Read more