The year after I was married in 1970, the Rival Co. introduced a new kitchen appliance, the Crock Pot. A hot item in my circles, it was touted to be foolproof and trouble-free. The original slow cooker came in one size with three settings (High, Low, Warm), a choice of a couple of colors with a retail price of $17.99. I went for the popular Brady Bunch orange and assumed this baby would turn me into a world-class cook overnight.

1971_crockpot-1

The reason that slow cooker landed where it did (car port storage shed) is because it produced overcooked bland tasting meals that could at best be considered semi-edible.

The problem was that I didn’t know the basic fundamental culinary techniques of slow-cooking. It wasn’t the Crock Pot, it was me. Read more

Dear Readers: Of all the columns I’ve written, the one on the care and feeding of the carpet in my home has generated by far the most interest and, shall I say, creative feedback! And the most requests to reprint. Since you asked, here it is again. Enjoy!

Okay, so maybe I should say, “One of the best things ….” but at this moment, as I write, I cannot think of anything I’ve ever purchased that can top my carpet cleaning steam vac.

Background: I have a love/hate relationship with carpet. I love how it looks, how it feels under my feet and how it warms up a room. But I hate dirty carpet. Cannot abide a spot. The thought of what lurks between those fibers gives me the heeby-geebies.  Read more

 

You’ve heard it and you may even believe it—that you get what you pay for. While that may be true some of the time, it is definitely not something you should believe across the board.

chromebook

There are times that you really can get a lot more than you pay for. I’m talking about Samsung and Google’s laptop computer, Chromebook. The price on this baby has just dropped below $220. See? You think it’s a misprint, don’t you. It’s not. And yes, I said two hundred and twenty dollars.

I’m not much of a techy, so let me describe this laptop to you the way I understand. Think of an iPad with a built in keyboard and touchpad. Weighing in at just 2.4 lbs., it is .07 inches thin, fast and absolutely does not heat up. With a full 11.6-inch screen, this computer and display are flat-out beautiful.  Read more

Update: The First Years Ignite Stroller is no longer available for purchase. We’ve updated our recommendation which can be found here.

One of the best money management tools I know is this Rule of Thumb: Match quality with need. In other words, don’t buy quality beyond the need.

Sometimes the cheapest option is the best choice. Other times, you’ll regret having gone cheap when you have to replace that item well before your need for it goes away. In that case, you’d be better off going for a higher-priced option that promises to last longer than the cheaper alternative and its replacement.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? You’d think so, but I must admit that when it comes to this quality vs. need issue, I am not perfect. It can be a real challenge.

Case in point: When my grandson was born, I bought the cheapest umbrella stroller Target had to offer. My reasoning was that I would use it only occasionally. I didn’t need a big fancy model.

Stroler on sidewalk

Photo credit: Stopthegears Flickr Photostream

Read more

While I am a very busy person and not 100% organized, I do pride myself on cleanliness to the point of having been accused a time or two of being a wee bit compulsive. Which brings me to the matter of vacuum cleaners. I’m freakish if not particular about my vacuum. And I wear them out, regularly.

Declutterin junk out on the street

I just blew out my third Hoover Wind Tunnel, and I mean I wore that thing out down to its last gasp. I carried it in pieces to the trash. I was planning to replace it with the latest and greatest from Hoover … that is, until I heard about the Shark Navigator.

Read more