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.  Read more

Considering the huge reader response whenever I mention that the most inexpensive shampoos can actually be good for your hair, but not so for hair conditioners—a follow up post is in order.

Unfortunately, conditioners are not quite as simple as shampoos.

First, we need to demystify the term “conditioner.” It is a vague term that refers to a wide range of hair products designed to make hair more manageable and also treat common hair problems.

Conditioners fall into four general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve: moisturizers, reconstructors, acidifiers and detanglers.

Using the wrong product for the specific condition of your hair will produce disappointing results. For example, if your hair is thin and fine you are not going to be happy with my industrial-strength conditioner for thick, coarse, frizzy, color-treated hair!

While the specific products I am about to mention to you are available readily in supermarkets and drug stores, the prices quoted are for Amazon, at the time of writing.

MOISTURIZERS are concentrated with humectants, which are compounds that attract moisture into the hair and hold it there. If your hair is dry, brittle and limp, you should consider a moisturizing conditioner like Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal DreamCare Conditioner (about $7.50 or $.30/oz.) Read more

Vacuuming sucks. Literally. My idea of giving our adult sons robot vacuums for Christmas one year was intended to help them with that odious chore.

What a disappointment. I learned much later that both robots got thrown out after only a few months because they were ridiculously noisy, needed constant supervision and just more trouble than they were worth. They were annoying and couldn’t do the job.

But that was then and this is now: There’s a new robot vacuum in town and Eufy RoboVac II+* is his name.

From the same folks who make the Eufy Stick Vac (which we love around here), this robot has renewed my faith that robotic vacuuming is not only possible—it can be amazing.

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As you may know, and only because I mention it so often, I get a lot of mail. And up until just recently, it’s gone into one big out-of-control pile I call The Mailbag.

Having reached the tipping point where I was ready to pull out every last hair in my head, I’ve come up with a new three-category plan. From now on all of my mail will be sorted by three categories: Questions, Comments and Tips.

Today I’m kicking off a new “Ask Me Anything” feature where I’ll answer as many questions as space permits.

Comments will be addressed in another new feature, “Letters to the Editor,” (watch for it) and your awesome tips will continue to show up in “Great Reader Tips.”

Questions, comments and tips will be considered for publication based on their appeal, relevancy and whether the message strikes your humble columnist’s fancy!

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Faithful readers know how much I love to cook. That has not always been the case. It was coming face-to-face with how much money we were spending on restaurants, diners, take-out and drive-thrus that forced me (kicking and screaming) into the kitchen.

All those years ago, I looked to TV shows, cookbooks and online videos to teach me how to cook. I became a marginally decent cook.

Several months ago, I ponied up about $20 (I had a coupon!) to test a subscription to Home Chef meal kit delivery service (read all about that HERE and HERE).

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Over the past several months, I’ve received more requests for the best inexpensive stick vacuum than all other such requests combined. And I get it. I’ve been looking for my ideal stick vacuum for so long, I’d just about come to the conclusion that my expectations are completely unreasonable—my perfect stick vacuum doesn’t exist.

For me, a stick vacuum is not a substitute for a good, powerful household vacuum that can pull dirt, dust and debris from deep within the pile of a carpet. Just so you know, I am not looking to get rid of my beloved Sharky. Never! A stick vacuum has a different purpose altogether.

It’s a simple tool designed for quick pick-ups; to clean up spills in the kitchen, tracked in sand, dirt, pet hair, cat litter, dust, and loose debris when you don’t have the time or inclination to haul out a full size vacuum cleaner for such a small task.

A good way to think of a stick vacuum is that it’s an electric broom and dustpan in one. It “sweeps” up and then vacuums away debris in a single pass without the need for the user to bend over or get down on the floor.

My dream stick vacuum would be cordless with a run time of at least 20 minutes and able to stand alone. In my dreams this stick vacuum is so lightweight I can easily carry it up and down stairs in one hand while carrying a load in the other. It must have an on/off switch so that I don’t have to continuously hold down a trigger during operation.

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Years ago I had an editor who told me that I should value highly every letter I receive because each one represents 1,000 readers with the same question or comment. Honestly, I was skeptical because there was no way to prove such a thing. But I never forgot what she said.

This many years later, I’m a believer! How do I measure? By the number of thanks I get after the fact, when I do respond to those readers who take the time to write. It’s like, “Oh, that’s exactly what I needed to know!” or “I was just going to write and ask the same thing.”

A regular, albeit random, feature of this column—EC’s Best Inexpensive—has begun to bring a lot of mail in the form of reader requests for their particular item of interest.

And so for Jeannine, Francine and Brenda—and the 999 others who haven’t asked yet—here are the EC picks for Best Inexpensive hairdryer, electric mixers and clothes steamers.

HAIR DRYER: Conair 1875 Watt with Cord Keeper. This hairdryer has it all and by “all” I mean the things on my particular must-have list: three levels of heat, two speeds, cool shot button, diffuser attachment and retractable cord (awesome). This is a powerful dryer that comes in a choice of two cool colors. Read more

With so many technologies and capabilities available, choosing a printer isn’t easy. And don’t assume you’ll find the perfect printer anytime soon. No matter the cost, printers get paper jams. They run out of ink/toner. Network connectivity can be challenging. That’s just the nature of printers. I don’t know why, but it’s important to understand and accept.

Now that I’ve lowered your over all expectations, let me give you the good news: There are some great affordable printers out there, depending of course on exactly what you need a printer to do. Here are my top three picks for your consideration:

Best Inexpensive Black and White Laser Printer. The Brother HL-L2395DW is a great choice for people who need to print, scan, or copy term papers, tax forms, concert tickets and other black and white documents from home, home office or dorm room. This printer handles automatic two-sided printing; it’s pretty speedy too, at 32 pages per minute, with a cost-per-page of about 2.3 cents which includes wear and tear on the drum.

This Brother model is quite easy to set up and will be a reliable addition to your home’s computer network. Expect this printer to work well with any current laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet including Chromebooks.

The paper tray holds 250 sheets of paper and the printer itself has a draft or “save more” setting that allows you to conserve toner when the document you print does not require professional quality. But when that is needed, this printer outputs sharp, professional black and white pages at up to 2400 x 600 dpi resolution.
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