Best Inexpensive Heated Mattress Pads

Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know something called a heated mattress pad even existed. Makes sense since I’d lived in Southern California for most of my life where it is mostly warm all year round.

Relocating to Colorado where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about heating a house without going broke. That first winter our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature day and night. It was shocking.

We saw a semi-dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 F. at night and use a Bionaire micathermic space heater in our bedroom, but that wasn’t altogether successful. My husband and I have different internal thermostats. He would be cold while I’d be turning the space heater down a notch or two.

That’s when I set out to find a way we could both enjoy a warm and cozy sleeping environment without paying a fortune to achieve it. We tried going the electric blanket route. We got this Biddeford model with dual controls. That sounded like a great idea until we used it for a few nights. While the cords and wires are advertised to be flexible, we could still feel them and they felt stiff and bulky. Another problem is the dual controls require separate outlets. But worse—even at the lowest setting, it felt to me that I was trapped under a layer of heat and it didn’t feel good.

Best Inexpensive™ Electric Toothbrush, Folding Knife, Smart Speaker and Extreme Hand Lotion

One of the best things I’ve done in a long time is to invite my readers to send in their requests for my Best Inexpensive picks. I’m not sure why I love it so much, but I think it may have something to do with satisfying my inner shopper without actually shopping.

At any rate, today I’m excited to reveal my Best Inexpensive picks for four completely unrelated, but frequently requested items.

ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH. I’ve gone to the same dentist for so many years, I’m sure he’d be embarrassed if I told you here. Know how much I trust and depend on Richard Oliver, DDS., La Palma, Calif.? I now live 1,100 miles away, but he’s still my dentist and I still show up for regular cleaning and check-ups. Dr. Oliver believes so strongly in the effectiveness of a good electric toothbrush, he gives his patients a new brush head for their particular model, every visit. However, my pick for the Best Inexpensive electric toothbrush is the Oral-B Pro 1000.

Here’s why: It’s a great tool, works like a champ and gets awesome reveiws. Oral-B Pro 1000 has a built-in timer so I know I have to keep going at it until it gives me an alert that I’m done—but also a pulse every 30 seconds so I know when to switch areas. The replacement toothbrush heads for this brush are inexpensive, which is a big deal. This brush holds a charge for many days, making it  ideal for travel. The manufacturer claims this Pro 100 removes 300% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush. And here’s the best part: About $40.

FOLDING KNIFE. Having all sons and one husband, I’m know how much many men enjoy and depend on a decent pocket knife. In my family, I’ve joined those ranks. I love having a good, dependable cutting tool in my handbag. And I know the heartache of losing my favorite, well-used and always sharp knife. That’s when it’s good to know I carry the best that is also inexpensive. My pick for Best Inexpensive pocket knife: Columbia River Knife and Tool with Plain Edge.

Here’s why: It is the perfect size and shape. Once folded, it locks in place for safety. The blade is high-quality stainless steel and razor-sharp . For the money, this is a super bargain. About $23. 

Instant Pot Quick-Start Guide

About 20 years ago there was a pressure cooker renaissance in America. Our grandmothers knew that day would come, that we would return to her favorite kitchen tool—a pressure cooker—to make fast braises, stews, soups, and casseroles. They just didn’t know how we’d get there.

If you, like me, are a Nervous Nellie who grew up hearing stories about a great aunt who shellacked her ceiling with country stew when the thing nearly blew her to Oz and back, relax. I’ve powered through the fear and discovered modern pressure cookers have amazing safety features to put all fear to rest. Now it’s time for you to start exploring as well, especially if you’re busy, hate spending hours in the kitchen but hate even more having to go out and spend a fortune on a marginally edible restaurant meal.

Perhaps you impulse bought an Instant Pot—on a whim and now it sits unopened in the garage, nearly forgotten. Or it’s been on the countertop for months and truth be told, you don’t have a clue what to do with it.

Or it’s possible you have used Instant Pot, tried it once and it turned out to be a complete disaster. The pot roast turned out dry and tough as shoe leather. The pasta came out a frothy, sloppy mess. Disappointment, thy name is Instant Pot.

Whatever your situation—even if you’ve never heard of a pressure cooker let alone how or why you need to—today’s the day. It’s time to put away all preconceived notions, rumors, and failures and start over on the right foot.

IT’S DIFFERENT. Pressure cooking is a completely different kind of cooking. You can’t just throw stuff in willy-nilly and expect perfection five minutes later. There are rules, which when followed, pay off in spades. But you have to know them, learn them and follow them. It’s not hard, but it is completely different than what you might be used to.

Best Inexpensive: Towels, Mattress Pad, Down Comforter

In my lifetime, I have spent way too much in an attempt to furnish bedrooms and baths with high quality towels and bedding. What I have discovered through a lot of trial and error is that the price does not always guarantee great results.

Today I want to tell you about my picks for the Best Inexpensive bath towels, mattress pads and down (the real deal) comforters.

TOWELS. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that when it comes to towels, my husband and I are both very picky. They can’t be too thin, but not too thick either. Towels need to be highly absorbent, 100% cotton. We’re not into bath sheets, preferring our bath towels to be somewhere around 30” x 56.” They need to be soft but not too soft, so as not to give an invigorating rub down following a hot shower.

I want towels that launder well—able to handle hot wash, vinegar rinse and a high-temperature dry with wool dryer balls. We stick with all white linens, so our towels need to be able to handle an occasional bit of chlorine bleach.

My pick for Best Inexpensive bath towels is Land’s End 100% Rare Supima Combed Cotton towels, hand towels, and washcloths. These are amazing towels. They do not shrink, launder beautifully and look gorgeous hanging in the bathroom. These towels come singly or in sets and in a choice of 15 colors, including white.

Lands’ End Rare Supima Combed Cotton 6-piece Towel Set (2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, and 2 washcloths) $79.

Best Inexpensive Bed Sheets

For some time I’ve been toying with whether or not to write this column. You can see I’ve made my decision. Here’s a little back story to explain my conflict.

When it comes to bedding, I am particular. It’s not a matter of decor or brand. It’s the way the sheets feel. They have to be smooth and wrinkle-free. The sheets have to breathe and not stick to me. But they can’t be slick, slippery, crunchy or noisy, either. The weave has to be tight and they can’t feel like sandpaper.

Seriously, if the sheets are not right, I don’t sleep well. And by well I mean sound asleep—not tossing, turning and constantly waking up.

For me, sheets have to fit well, too. The fitted sheet cannot pop off the corners of the mattress; but it can’t be too big, so as to become baggy and then prone to bunching up. Above all, my sheets must be 100% cotton. Not linen, not microfiber or polyester or any other type of fiber or blend thereof.

There was a time when decent sheets were common and affordable. I don’t know what’s happened there, but I  blame it on synthetic fibers—microfiber, polyester and their related manmade fiber-cousins that are cheap to manufacture.

We used to depend on the word “percale” to be the sign of a great sheet, but truth be told percale has nothing to do with fiber content. Percale refers to a type of tight weave. I’ve been fooled by percale sheets that turn out to be polyester percale or microfiber percale—not the fine cotton percale we remember from childhood.

Ask Me Anything: Rust Stains, Computer Printers, Dark Spot Remover

Got a question? Lots of readers do and chances are pretty good their questions just might be your questions, too. At the very least, you may find these answers to be somewhat educational, if not entertaining!

The rust in our city water leaves an unsightly brown build up in my bathroom sink made of vitreous china. I have tried homemade remedies and store-bought products, nothing has worked in completely ridding the unsightly stains.  Can you recommend something that will help make my sinks look new again? Diane

Bar Keepers Friend, available in the household cleanser aisle of most supermarkets and discount stores, will remove those stains without harming the enamel coating on porcelain, known as vitreous china. The active ingredient in Bar Keepers Friend is oxalic acid, an organic acid that works as a bleach and rust remover. I think you will be amazed by the ability of BKF to remove these stains! As always, it is vitally important that you test any product in an inconspicuous place first to make sure it will not be damaged before proceeding.

Keep Your Cool in the Heat of Summer

As I write, it’s the first day of summer and a scorcher here in Northern Colorado—103F. But, it’s a dry heat—only 10% humidity.

I know, you’re laughing, as if 103 dry is any more tolerable than a more humid 103. Actually, it is—or so the weather experts tell us.

Now that the summer heat is bearing down on cities across the U.S., millions of window-mounted air conditioners are getting a real work out. Chris Hall, president of  RepairClinic.com, says his company is ready for the seasonal spike in questions from consumers who are wondering why their A/C unit isn’t working properly. In many instances, he says, consumers can rectify the problem themselves–if they have the right advice.

No More Bad Hair Days

A recent post in which I wailed and whined about my very bad hair day started it. You may recall how I mentioned volumizing, styling techniques and a great can of hairspray. That brought an avalanche of desperate queries, suggesting to me that perhaps I’m not the only one dealing with an occasional bad hair day!

Which volumizer? Hairspray? What? Where?!

Not long after we visited the world of shampoos and conditioners. That stirred up lots more questions and very specific ones as in exactly which products?

So today, I’ve decided to tell. Exactly. Specifically. And trust me when I say that  I’ve tested many—none of which are sponsored, all of which I buy myself.

(From time to time I see these products at stores like Walgreens, King Soopers, Target, Walmart, but never all of them at the same time in the same place—except on Amazon. I am convinced that overall, Amazon consistently has the best prices.)

1. SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER. Currently, I’m using  Tigi Bed Head Moisture Maniac Shampoo and Conditioner because I got them on a terrific sale. My hair is dry, I live in a dry climate, my hair is (surprise!) color-treated and both are very gentle. These bottles are huge and since I get at least 4 days out of a hairstyle, they will last me a very long time. About $30 for both.

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