Ask Me Anything: Pre-Owned iPhones, Pet Stains, Carpet Cleaning Machine

Have you seen the latest iPhone X? Read about it? I nearly choked when I learned it comes with a price tag of $1,000 or more.

Granted, I’m no iPhone aficionado, but I cannot imagine spending that much on a mobile phone of any brand, size, or capability. Can you?

Debra writes, “It’s time for me to get a new smartphone and I’m having a hard time deciding. Since they are so expensive, I don’t want to make a bad choice. I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy 2 for about five years. Everyone else in my family has iPhones and they suggest I do the same even though they have no experience with Android phones. Also, I’ve come across certified used phones which are cheaper, but I’m a bit leery of going that route because I don’t know how safe it is. I would appreciate any advice you could offer.”

Answer: This is going to come down to your own personal preference, however as one who has never really bonded with any mobile phone (my family members are mostly at their wits’ end with me as I rarely even know where my phone is—let alone think I should answer it if I’m busy), I would be hardpressed to give you a specific recommendation. But I do have some thoughts.

Ask Me Anything: More Laundry Stains, Jewelry Cleaner, Ugly Toilet Ring

There’s an old proverb that says, teaching teaches the teacher. Not only do I believe this, it was proven to me once again only recently in a way that has me doing the Happy Dance! The best part? Now I get to teach this simple yet very useful tip to others.

Dear Mary: The Fuller/Stanley company recently informed me that after many years, they have discontinued their wonderful product, Original Degreaser. I use it mainly for laundry stains but is also wonderful for greasy spots in the kitchen. Do you have a recommendation for a similar product? Lisa

Dear Lisa:  I do, but first let me tell you a story ….

Ask Me Anything: Programmable Thermostats, Column Archives, Retirement Plans, Cottage Businesses

As I write, it is very early in the morning. I just peeked out to see that it’s snowing! As you may recall, we are new to Colorado, having moved from Southern California. I must be still in that wide-eyed, child-like phase of transition because I am all giddy with excitement and wonder. Snow!

How fitting it is that our first reader question is right on-point with wanting to keep warm and cozy without breaking the bank.

Dear Mary: A coworker had a programmable thermostat installed in her home. She says the temperature is always perfect and her utility bills are lower. Hers cost over $200, plus installation. Is it really worth it? Martha in Vermont

Dear Martha: Programmable thermostats that control a home’s central heat and air conditioning can return many times their original cost in lower electricity bills. You can set your timer to turn off the AC about the time you leave for the day, and to turn back on a half hour before you get home.  Contrary to popular belief, this does not use more electricity than having the heat constantly maintain a warm temperature; it uses less. In the summer you can program your air conditioning similarly.

Programmable thermostats like the Lux Products TX500E-010 Smart Temp Programmable Thermostat are available online or at local home improvement stores and start at about $35. All programmables come with installation instructions, which I’m confident you could follow easily. Or it’s a quick job for an electrician if you’re not comfortable doing the installation yourself.

Ask Me Anything: Lost Wallet Found, College Dough, Dubious Credit

Today’s batch of reader questions reminds me how complicated our lives have become since the introduction of something known as consumer credit. Some days I long for simpler times so long ago when cash was king; when there was no such thing as a billion-dollar consumer credit industry attempting to control our lives.

Dear Mary: A couple months ago, I left my wallet on the bus. I immediately called the bus company and was told the driver had turned it in. When I got it back, I found everything in its place, including my cash. I didn’t think any more of it. Now my credit-card statement is two weeks late. Should I be concerned? Brian

Letters to the Editor: Coffee Roasting, Beef Jerky, Two-Year-Olds, Gift Guides and More

Today I want to remind you, my dear readers, of just how much joy you bring to my life with your comments and feedback. You give me a daily dose of reality because I use my inbox to measure the “temperature” of how this blog is being received.

Now and then I get a comment, and I reluctantly tell you this, that’s just not fit to print. Others make me smile, and even cry from time to time. But all are joyfully received, regardless the content. That’s because they let me know that at least one someone out there is reading what I write!

Comments to How to Get Started Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans

Can one who drinks decaffeinated coffee do this?  If so, how? Lois

Yes! Decaffeinated raw green coffee beans are readily available. I now keep a supply myself so I have freshly roasted coffee for guests who prefer decaf. (My favorite based on guest feedback is this Decaf Columbian, about $30 for 5 pounds). I do find that decaf beans using  the Swiss water process for decaffeinating, roast faster than regular beans, so I watch decaf roasting even more closely. 

Ask Me Anything: Concrete Stains, Yellowed Whites, Power Toothbrush

Every day when I open my inbox, I find dozens, if not hundreds, of questions from the audience. Want to know the most-asked-about subject? Stains. Nasty, ugly, stubborn stains on everything you can imagine from concrete to laundry, and teeth, too.

Q: Five years ago we replaced our entryway steps and now the concrete has developed green/brown stains from dead, wet leaves, etc. How can we remove these stains?

A: The leaf stains are caused by tannins, the same type of compounds that are found in grapes and make wine taste “dry.” Tannin stains on outdoor concrete may not permanent, but they can be difficult to remove. Fresh stains often go away on their own, provided they are exposed to the powerful bleaching action of the sun. Fresh stains are easier to remove than older stains. Powdered detergents that contain bleaching agents that remove organic stains like food, blood and plant material can effectively clean old, stubborn stains from concrete surfaces, according to Concrete Network.

Here are the steps to follow, making sure you have placed a tarp over nearby plants to protect them from cleaning products. Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the concrete before you apply the cleaner to the stain:

And Now the Rest of the Take-My-iPhone-Please Story

You may recall that several months ago, after considering my options for what to do with my iPhone 5C (trade it in, sell it, consign it, auction it, donate it, or keep it) I’d decided to sell the phone to the online company that had given me the best cash offer.

That didn’t happen. Within hours of posting that column, I received a message offering one more option:

Ask Me Anything: Dip-It for Percolators, Laminate Floors, Unscented Dawn

Growing up in Boise, Ida. (shout out to all my Gem State readers) my parents had a percolator. I can still hear that coffee pot perking away in the mornings. My mom used something called Dip-It powder to keep the thing clean.

That’s a memory that sent me into research mode, prompted by today’s first reader inquiry.

 

Q: I purchased an electric coffee percolator several years ago. It’s still working fine but now I’m having a problem purchasing Dip-It by Reckitt Benckiser to clean it. I understand they’ve stopped making it. I have tried using vinegar and it did not work very well.  Do you have any ideas on how I can make a Dip-It like product myself? Vickie

A: Yes, but first a little history. Dip-It Coffee Food and Beverage Stain Remover for Percolators and Cookware by Rickitt Benckiser was acquired by the Lime-A-Way company, which continued manufacturing the powdery product for awhile until it changed it to Lime-A-Way Dip-It Coffeemaker Cleaner liquid (about $6 for a 7-ounce bottle) with a completely different formulation designed for modern drip coffeemakers. But not to worry. I have a process that reasonably duplicates the venerable Dip-It results for keeping your coffee percolator beautifully clean, provided you do this in steps rather than combining cleaning ingredients:

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