How to Shovel Snow

 

Surely the winter of 2014 will go down in the history books for breaking numerous records and for teaching us a new term: Polar Vortex. Sounds like the title of a Disney movie, doesn’t it?

Actually—and I had to look this up to be absolutely sure to get it right—the Polar Vortex is a prevailing wind pattern that normally keeps extremely cold air bottled up toward the North Pole. However, once in a rare while the vortex weakens, allowing the cold air to pour down across Canada and into the U.S. And that spells another term, and the subject of this column: snow. Cold, wet, heavy snow.

Although shoveling the stuff to keep driveways and walkways clear seems pretty straightforward, there’s a subtle art to the task. And it helps to have the right equipment.

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But first a word of caution: Shoveling snow is not a task for the weak of heart. We know this because after a snowfall hospitals are inundated with heart attack victims and patients with wrenched backs. If you’re out of shape or suffer health problems, hire a local teen or befriend a neighbor with a snow blower instead. Read more

Ditch the Water Bottle

 

The trouble with bottled water, experts say, is not the water. It’s the plastic bottles the water comes in that are potentially harmful to our health and environment.

The folks at the Mayo Clinic say we need to be concerned about BPA, often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. Exposure to BPA, they say, is a concern because of possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. The FDA suggests that very low level exposure to BPA is safe, however, the agency is engaged in ongoing research. Sounds scary to me.

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Health issues are one thing, but the effect on the environment is another. According to the EPA, in 2010 the U.S. generated 31 million tons of plastic waste. This is becoming such a problem that Concord, Mass. recently became the first municipality in the nation to ban the sale of single-serving water bottles. San Francisco, Calif. may implement one of the strictest bottled water bans in the country if the its Board of Supervisors approves a proposal to ban its sale on public property. Extreme reactions? Perhaps, but 31 million tons of plastic waste is no small matter. Read more

Would You Floss for $8,000?

 

Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked for your friendly neighborhood periodontist, it could prevent a lot of pain—both dental and financial.

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Periodontal disease is an infection that affects the gum tissue around the teeth, the fibers that hold the teeth in the jaw bone and the bone itself.

Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also under the gum, forming a sticky substance called “plaque” that hardens to form tartar. This leads to infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone it begins to decay and pus forms which causes swelling, redness and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out. Read more

Use Science to Slash Your Home Heating Bill

 

Got big heating bills this winter even though you keep the thermostat set at “Brrrrrr”? Science may be able to offer you a better and cheaper way to stay warm at home. But first a few facts:

Feeling warm or cold has nothing to do with air temperature. We get warm from our surroundings that have been heated by infrared radiation. The sun produces harmless infrared lightwaves that are invisible and responsible for making us feel warm.

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Read more

A Burst of Steam and a Cup o’ Joe

 

If you are a regular reader of this column you know there are two appliances that get a daily workout at my house—the coffeemaker and steam iron. Over the years I’ve tested many brands, models and options. My conclusion is that for these two items, price does not always indicate a superior product. I prefer what I call the best inexpensives.

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When it comes to making coffee and pressing clothes, I don’t need or want fancy options. What I’m looking for are reliable workhorses that can get the job done, don’t need to be coddled and keep working well for a long time.

Here are my recommendations for the two best inexpensive coffeemakers and steam irons—any of which would, in my opinion, make excellent Christmas gifts. But then I also happen to be  one who loves to find household appliances under the tree: Read more

An Ounce of Prevention is Cheaper than a Pound of Cure

 

If the terms Snowden, NSA and “top secret information” ring a bell, it’s possible that you follow the national news and understand the issues of privacy—both national and personal.

I’ll be honest. I find it a bit creepy to think that someone out there may be monitoring my emails, phone calls and financial history. That’s one thing, but should that “someone” actually make a move to harm me in any way because of that knowledge? Well, that’s where I know I can do something about it. And I would much rather choose prevention than face the daunting task of repair.

Here’s the problem:

How can I prevent someone grabbing my Social Security number, using it to open a credit-card account and running that baby to the moon—before I know what’s happening?

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How can I prevent someone from financing a car in my name using my identity—then crashing it and causing all kinds of damage and personal liability for me, before I can even figure out what on earth happened? I can’t. I wish I could, but I just do not have the resources, network or ability to track and monitor my personal identifying information to stop someone from stealing it. And you know what? No individual does. That would be logistically impossible. Read more

Put Your Freezer To Work

 

Whether you have a stand alone unit or yours is part of your refrigerator, your freezer is either costing a lot in wasted energy or it’s saving you a bundle in food costs. It has a lot to do with the style of freezer you have, the way you stock it and how you maintain it.

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Some rights reserved by sporkist & katesheets

Use a thermometer. Get a refrigerator/freezer thermometer to check the temperature. The closer to 0 F., the better. Food kept at 0 F. degrees will last months longer than say 20 or 31 F.

Remove the air. Trapped air causes freezer burn. Make sure you select a container small enough so the contents fill it. You can remove a great deal of the air from a freezer bag without a fancy vacuum sealing machine. Seal all but enough space to slip in a drinking straw. Now inhale on that straw to pull all the air out of the bag. Quickly zip the last bit. Pop it into the freezer. Read more

Money-Saving Investments for the Kitchen

 

I’m crazy about gadgets—everything from quirky can openers to smartphones. Hand me a Swiss Army knife and I’m in heaven—the more blades and utensils the better.

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And how about that One-Second Needle? It was a great idea, but sadly that is one gadget that needs to be put out of its misery, in my humble opinion.

My favorite gadgets, of course, are ones that actually help me to save money. I’ve been fooled from time to time, spending good money on things that just did not perform well. Or the gadget turned out to be so cumbersome using it actually complicated rather than simplified my life. But now and then I strike on a gadget that is so magnificent in its functionality and money-saving properties, I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Today I want to tell you about three gadgets for the kitchen that I consider to be wise investments. All three are inexpensive enough to pay for themselves in immediate grocery savings and will then go on to keep paying off in food savings. That’s saying a lot as food costs continue to soar. Read more