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1

Dinner-in-a-Box is Not What I Thought

Dinner-in-a-Box. Seriously?

Who in their right mind would trust seafood, meat and produce from some unknown assembly plant, piled onto a loading dock then moved into the back of an unrefrigerated FedEx truck for who knows how long and until some delivery guy drops it on the porch?

The whole idea sounded ridiculously expensive to me, if not just plain gross. I didn’t need to test the obvious so I did what comes all too naturally for me: I jumped to conclusions.

Turns out I was way off base and so wrong. Today I’m here to come clean and set the record straight…

2

Gifts to Thrill and Delight Coffee Snobs

Even if you aren’t one, chances are pretty good you know someone who is a bona fide coffee snob. That’s because unmitigated devotion to coffee has reached epic proportions in the past few years. For these folks, nothing says “I care” more than a gift that affirms said snobbery and love for truly great coffee. I […]

4

Just in Time for the Holidays Gift-Worthy Caramel Corn

For years, I’ve tried to make caramel corn, without success. It was either too soggy or too chewy. Or the caramel turned sugary. Once, I needed a hammer and chisel to get the stuff out of the bowl.

I’d really given up until my encounter with Popcornopolis. I had to figure this out―I had to find a way to create a reasonable facsimile in my kitchen that would hit the mark without breaking the bank.

I am excited to let you know is that I believe I have … oh my, yes! My recipe, instructions and very important final step, all of that in today’s post

See you there!

Love, Mary 👌❤️

5

Make Memories and You’ll Give Gifts for a Lifetime

If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland. 

Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids, and now her 13 grandchildren, the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight …

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10

Celebrate Good Times … Come On!

Celebrate? With all that’s going on in our world?  You bet. We need to celebrate wherever, whenever, and as often as possible. In their book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, authors Stephen Post and Julie Neimark tell us that celebration is gratitude in action. Celebration creates a circle of love. When we rejoice […]

13

How to Leave a Fragrance, Not an Odor

I have something really fun to share with you today about fragrance, but first a story. About my friend, Herta. It’s been quite a few years now since she and Al came to visit. In their graciously kind manner, they brought gifts. I thought I’d heard of everything, but one of these gifts left me wide-eyed […]

15

How to Repair Your Credit and Improve Your Credit Score

Your credit score is a 3-digit number between 300 and 850, generated by a mathematical algorithm (a mostly secret formula) based on information in your credit report, as compared to information on tens of millions of other people. The resulting number is said to be a highly accurate prediction of how likely you are to […]

18

My Hate-Love Relationship with a Cast Iron Skillet

I really don’t know where I got the thing. It may have been a wedding gift. What I know is that I tried to use that cast iron skillet without success and I mean not even a little bit. Food would become hopelessly stuck to it and burned beyond recognition. If it wasn’t turning out charred fare, it was growing a fine coat of rust.

The good news is I rescued it and now more than 40 years later, my favorite skillet and I have quite a love thing going on.

Have a great weekend!

~ xoxo Mary 😍

20

Lately, Have You Checked the HVAC Filter?

Everyone agrees that we should change the filter in our home heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Actually doing that may be something else altogether. It’s all about the where, when and how of doing it that leads us to procrastination and selective amnesia. It’s not difficult. The problem is in making it a priority. […]

22

A Gracious Guide for How to Be a Good House Guest

It was shocking if not surreal. The email message was from a woman I’d never met and whose name I recognized only because a few months earlier she mailed me a book she’d written. The message announced that she and her family were planning a cross-country road trip to Disneyland and would just love to stay […]

23

Best Inexpensive Essential College Dorm Gear

It’s been a number of years since I moved into a college dorm room. My memories of college life are both vivid and precious. For years, I’d been dreaming about how I would grow up and leave my childhood home and sheltered life to attend college in Los Angeles. I lived in the same dorm room from […]

24

Favorite Super Short, Super Easy Instant Pot Recipes

I have loved my Instant Pot since the day it arrived back in 2016. I’ll admit to being slightly intimidated in the first few days but that was short-lived. Thanks to a few tips, tricks, and these ridiculously simple recipes, in no time I was making dinners in 30 minutes or less—start to finish. Meals from my Instant […]

25

15 Minutes to Financial Freedom

The email message contained a single-word subject: Help! The sender, I’ll call her Emily, had been asked by her community group leader to give a 15-minute presentation on how to achieve financial freedom. She was honored to have been asked, excited to do it, but also panicked by the thought. She asked if I would help. […]

26

Ask Me Anything: Toys R Us Gift Cards | Percale Sheets | Best Upright Vacuum

Childhood memories … they can be both comforting and painful. I was reminded of that this past week when we took our grandsons to their favorite Family Fun Center—Boondocks.

It’s a great place with all the regular entertainment: Mini Golf, Bumper Boats, Bowling, Laser Tag and their favorite—the Arcade where Eli, age 9, got a shock the likes of which I didn’t understand at first.

We discovered that our Boondocks has been completely renovated and upgraded. The familiar tokens for play and resulting “tickets” that pour out of the machines as rewards are gone. G-O-N-E!! In their place, digital cards your swipe like a credit card, that somehow keep track of points and rewards. How could they!?

Eli was crushed. Right before my eyes I watched as one of his favorite things to do morphed into but a childhood memory. There were tears commensurate with a 9-year old’s grief. That, of course. broke my heart. Actually, anything that insists my kids and grandsons must grow up is met with conflict in my heart.

On the one hand, I don’t want them to grow up. I want them to be innocent, wonder-filled children forever. But then I remind myself how grateful I am that our sons have and grandsons are developing into unique and wonderful adults. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Today’s post will leave you feeling a bit nostalgic as well but also filled with hope. I have such good stuff to share with you!

Speaking of good stuff … Congratulations to recent GIVEAWAY Winners!

Nok-Out Giveaway: Vivienne Stephen
ThermaPen MK4 Giveaway: Carolyn Nelson
Raising Financially Confident Kids Giveaway: Rebecca M. Powrozek

This has been so much fun, we’re considering making GIVEAWAYS a regular weekly feature. Your thoughts?

27

Follow Up: Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge

Did you accept the challenge Spring Clean Kitchen Challenge? It’s been six weeks since I wrote about our big kitchen remodel and my determination to follow Cynthia Townley Ewer’s (Cut the Clutter) three rules for organizing an efficient, convenient kitchen. I invited my readers to accept the challenge and many did. It’s time for a […]

28

How Not to Feel Poor on a Fixed Income

It’s no secret that more and more people—especially seniors on fixed incomes—are sinking deeper into credit-card debt. Why is this? I don’t think it’s because we’ve had so many emergencies (the reason to have credit cards, right?). It’s because we don’t want to feel poor. At this point, I should define this term, “feeling poor.” […]

29

Your Own Personal Loan Shark

Imagine paying outrageous amounts of interest to a greedy finance company and loving every minute of it. Or how about making off-the-record, back-alley deals with a loan shark so you can skip all the credit checks and paperwork? You can and you should.

30

What Happens to My Credit When I Get Married? 

While planning a wedding and their new life together, most couples aren’t thinking about how marriage might affect their credit. Will her student debt show up in your pristine credit file? Will your bankruptcy destroy his excellent credit score? Should you close the accounts you have but don’t use? Dear Mary: I’ll be getting married in […]

31

Your Cordless Stick Vac Needs a Bath—Photo Tutorial

Rarely do I gush. But gush I do over my Eufy Cordless Stick Vac*. Can’t help it. Eufy is so handy, easy to use and serves us so well in our home, office, garage and alas, my husband’s woodworking shop. Eufy HomeVac Lightweight Cordless Upright-Style Vacuum Cleaner (NOT to be confused with the Eufy Duo 2-in-1 […]

32

Best Inexpensive™ Dishwasher

Just this past week I heard from my dear reader Penny who is frustrated in the face of needing to purchase a new dishwasher. She writes:  “Our dishwasher is more than 20 years old and every time I think I have decided on a new one and read the reviews, I back out. I know that you […]

40

How to Eliminate Horrible Smoke Odor

I love the smell of a campfire smoke mixed with the scent of pine trees on a warm summer night. In the mountains at a campsite in a pristine national forest.  But stale cigarette smoke odor in a car or home? Smoke odor from a house fire? That’s something different and not at all pleasant.

42

Best Inexpensive™ Umbrellas

What we should expect are umbrellas that are waterproof, sturdy, and above all, reliable for a decent period of time. And of a decent size. And if something goes wrong—even super strong wind—we want reliable customer service that will make things right. Here are my picks for Best Inexpensive™ umbrellas.

43

Help! Issues with Tub and Shower Soap Scum Cleaner

If I were keeping track of the number of responses from my readers that are filled with praise and gratitude, there would be thousands of hash marks next to Tub and Shower Soap Scum Cleaner. And the most-often word to describe it? Magical!
But now and then a response will report problems having to do with allergies and, well … that smell!

46

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. Get ready for even more brilliant uses in today’s post.

47

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! There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. In […]

48

My Journey Into the Dark Web

I got up very early on Groundhog Day so I could be among the first to know  Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for how many weeks of winter are still ahead. As I was waiting for the live coverage to begin, I got an email message that made my heart race. The message was from LifeLock. Dark Web Alert: Identity Information Detected!

49

It’s a Smelly World Out There

Nok-Out and I met quite by accident. In searching for ways my readers could deal with offensive odors, we found each other online. I’ve used it continuously in my home since then and have recommended it to readers facing serious and potentially expensive odor issues.

51

Turn Leftovers into Soup

Soup is a great frugal, potentially delicious meal that can successfully be made from leftovers. It’s a great way to “waste-not-want-not” because potentially you can get a free meal for your efforts. But I’m not talking about just dumping stuff in a pot willy-nilly. There’s a method here for making really great soup from ingredients […]

52

That Bed Sheet Pet Peeve, How to Soften Hard Water for Laundry

It may not show up in The Top Tens Biggest Pet Peeves (yes, there is such a thing), but getting the corners right when putting on a fitted bed sheet ranks high in my mailbox.
Here’s the funny thing: Because it doesn’t bother me, I had no idea that quickly figuring out which corner goes where when putting on a fitted bed sheet was a major pet peeve for so many people! I guess I’ve lived my life just assuming that everyone knew the easy trick to get it right the first time, every time. 

53

Favorite Egg Recipes for Instant Pot

I’ve been using Instant Pot for a couple of years now. Somedays I wonder how I ever got along without it. It has earned a prominent place on my kitchen counter—a privilege enjoyed by few other items because I prefer for my counters to be clear open spaces.

55

Keep Kitties Out of the Kids’ Sandbox

Pop Quiz: What looks like water, is certainly inexpensive, has a pungent odor but is not toxic (in fact you can drink it if you like); is biodegradable, serves as a useful disinfectant and will repel kitties from your kids’ sandbox? Give up? Read on to learn the answer in today’s first great reader tip.

56

Ask Me Anything: Formica Restore, Silverfish Relief, Party Pressure

Recently, I reached into the pile known as my mail and pulled out a great question, “How can I restore the finish to an original, classic mid-century modern Formica top table that has some noticeable dull spots?” I have the answer but misplaced the letter. So while I don’t know your name, you know who you are and that’s all that matters.

57

Get Financially Confident Starting Now

For a good deal of my life, I lived under a dark cloud of fear that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady. Studies reveal that I’m not the only one. Most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we lack confidence. That makes us timid, worried and financially insecure. Look, we don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.