Mailable Cookies to Make Someone’s Day

Whether it’s a care package for a college student, a goody box for someone in the military or a way to say Happy Birthday to a friend or relative, there’s nothing like opening a box of fresh, homemade cookies. And if those cookies just happen to be that recipient’s favorite cookies of all time, even better!

Here are tips to make sure your cookies arrive as cookies and not a pile of crumbs—fresh and ready to enjoy.

1. Always cool cookies before storing or packaging into a container. Packing warm cookies allows too much moisture to get trapped inside the package.

2. Certain cookies tend to ship better than others do. For example, do not mail cookies with custard or custard-like fillings or toppings like cheesecake bars. The custard could spoil, making yours a very unwelcome gift. Any cookie that requires refrigeration is not a good candidate for the mail.

Got Five Minutes? Make Beautiful, Fresh Homemade Bread

As the stories continue to unfold for how people survived and continue now to deal with the ravages of hurricane season, I can’t be the only one questioning my own disaster preparedness.

One thing is certain. Here at the Hunt house, we’d have bread.

For years I’d had something of a love hate relationship with baking bread. It’s a domestic skill I could never quite master. And that bothered me in the way that little things can.

This would be my pattern: Four out of five tries would flop, then in an act of mercy by the yeast gods I’d turn out a specimen fit for judging at the Iowa State Fair. But the time involved, the angst, the stress—not much in my life is worth all of that and surely not bread.

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.

Ask Me Anything: Kitchen Appliances, Counters, Gunk Cleaners

Want to create enough confusion in your head to make it feel like it’s going to explode? Go shopping for kitchen appliances. Listen to all the sales pitches, let every friend and relative weigh in with their opinions and then set out to find all of it on sale. Yep, that will do it for sure.

To avoid that kind of near-explosive situation, you could do what today’s first reader did—ask me! It seems that I have a response (and opinion) for just about anything.

Dear Mary: We are remodeling our kitchen, which means new appliances. Do you have a suggestion for the brand we should consider and should we get them all to match or do more of a mix-and-match to get the best prices available? Also, which type of countertop do you feel is better? We have nine grandkids so we want everything to be very durable. Liz

Your Data Has Been Stolen from Equifax and What You Need to Do Today

This past Thursday, we got chilling news: Hackers have stolen personal identifying and sensitive information for 143 million American consumers—including Social Security and driver’s license numbers—from Equifax, one of the big three consumer reporting agencies.

How this could happen is beyond my comprehension. As I read about this cyber break-in, I could feel the anger begin to well up inside of me to the point I wanted to just sit in the corner and chew my hair. But now is not the time for anger.

We must assume that all of us and our family members are part of the 143 million individuals who are now ripe for having their stolen identities and personal information used by criminals to open accounts, file tax returns, buy property and more. It’s up to us to take steps to prevent this. No one else is going to do this for us.

Here’s what I am doing today in response to this horrible event: Nothing.

That’s because I, my family and my staff have LifeLock identify theft protection. Call me paranoid—or maybe I’ve just read too many horror stories—but I’ve never fully trusted the credit bureaus. Today, I’m even more untrusting. Even my young grandsons have LifeLock because it is horrific what ID thieves can do with the Social Security number of even a minor child.

The best approach here is to assume your data has been breached in this massive Equifax cyber break-in. If you do not have LifeLock identity theft protection (it’s not too late, but let’s just say you don’t have it), here are the steps you need to take as soon as possible:

Top 10 Student Loan Tips for Recent Graduates—and Not So Recent, Too!

Whether you just graduated, are taking a break from school, or have already started repaying your student loans, these tips will help you keep your student loan debt under control.

By “under control” I mean avoiding fees and extra interest costs, keeping your payments affordable, protecting your credit rating and paying those loans in full as quickly as possible. If you’re having trouble finding a job or keeping up with your payments, there’s important information here for you, too.

1. Know your loans. It’s important to keep track of the lender, balance and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and forgiveness. If you’re not sure, ask your lender or visit NSLDS.ed.gov. You can log in and see the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all of your federal loans. If some of your loans aren’t listed, they’re probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement or the original paperwork that you signed. Contact your school if you can’t locate any records.

2. Know your grace period. Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is the time between leaving school before you must make your first payment. It’s six months for federal Stafford loans, but nine months for federal Perkins loans. For federal parent or PLUS loans, it depends on when the loans were issued (see details). The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don’t miss your first payment.

Tackle Ant Problems with Ordinary Pantry Items

Ants are fascinating creatures. For example, each ant colony has several different kinds of ants. They are all the same species, but they look different. If the heat of summer has you in a constant battle, you might like to know that most of the ants you see are workers. They are female, but they cannot reproduce.

Inside the nest is the queen, she is a large female, and is the only one who can lay eggs. Only males and queen ants have wings, but the queens remove their wings when they start a new nest. Worker ants never have wings.

Now that you know what you’re looking, here are 11 ways to get rid of ants—especially those teeny tiny sugar ants*—using ordinary things from around the house or in the garage. Think of what follows as a kind of buffet where you pick the solutions that meet your immediate need with items you have on hand.

MOP AND VACUUM. To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

Ask Me Anything: Fruit Flies, Rusty Garden Tools, Eufy HomeVac HEPA Filters

Here at Everyday Cheapskate Central our hearts continue to be heavy for the good people of South Texas as they begin to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey—and the flood waters are still rising in many areas. Know that our thoughts and prayers are for your strength and safety as you endure this catastrophe.

Regardless what the calendar reads, I know without a doubt that where I live in Northern Colorado, fall has arrived. It’s not evident necessarily by a change of temperature or even trees beginning to turn color because both are still very summer like.

Around here it’s tiny, annoying, persistent fruit flies that signal that autumn cannot be far away. Apparently, I am not the only one noticing this.

Dear Mary: I have been having a real problem with fruit flies. I’ve tried numerous remedies and I get a few, but they’re still everywhere! I don’t have any fruit out. No open bottles of booze. I just can’t seem to get rid of them. PLEASE HELP!!! J.W.

Dear J.W: Fruit flies can be a problem year round, but are especially common during late summer/fall because they are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables. They may not be in your house, but your neighborhood and community is likely enjoying a harvest of tomatoes, melons, squash, grapes and other perishable items, which are breeding grounds for these tiny critters.

Fruit flies are also attracted to rotting bananas, potatoes, onions and other unrefrigerated produce purchased at the grocery store.

All it takes is one pregnant fruit fly to get in and before you know it, you’re dealing with a full-fledged fruit fly infestation. I know. I’ve been battling this problem, too! See that photo above? That’s a picture of one of my fly traps, so I know this works. To make your own fruit fly trap, assemble these supplies: a small glass bowl, plastic wrap, apple cider vinegar (no other types of vinegar or juice) and blue Dawn.

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