Everything is different when you’re a child: The trees are taller, colors are brighter, and every new day is more exciting than the last. And some things stay in our memories for a long time—in fact, sometimes they end up being with us forever.


Dear Mary: The sad news that Toys R Us is closing all of its US stores not only has us nostalgic for childhood memories, but it also has me wondering: what should they do with their Toys R Us gift cards? Michael

Dear Michael: This is a very sad topic in my family. My adult kids and grandsons too, are going through a kind of grief as thoughts of Toys R Us flood them with wonderful memories. 

As for Gift Cards—there’s one important thing to remember: Gift cards are not the same as cash. They represent store credit. One of the dangers of holding onto Gift Cards is that the store will file for bankruptcy or some other event that causes those Gift Cards to become virtually worthless without notice. My advice is that you use Gift Cards as soon as possible—never hold onto them for the long term. 

Get thee to the nearest Toys R Us store you can find that is still open to buy some Christmas gifts! Don’t assume you’ll be able to use those Gift Cards at ToysRUs.com as the online store has been closed. Only a sweet, tearjerker message remains with a reminder me that deep down inside, we’re all Toys R Us kids. 

Dear Mary: I’ve always purchased percale bed sheets, but recently I bought 100% cotton sheets. These sheets come out of the dryer so wrinkled and the bands of the top sheets have creases that don’t even smooth out with my iron set at “cotton.”  We don’t have a B & B, but when I have guests I like for them to feel like they are in a B & B. Since I fold the top of the sheet over the blanket when I make up the bed, I like for the top band to be smooth. Do you have any suggestions that will help me? Pat

Dear Pat: You and I must be, well, cut from the same cloth! I’m quite possibly way too particular about bed sheets, myself. 

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. But there is no standard or reliable benchmark because percale is an adjective that any manufacturer can use to describe its product regardless of the fiber content. 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. 

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I suggest you look at JCPenney’s Royal Velvet 400-tc, WrinkleGuard Sheet Set—100% cotton bed sheets, available in Full, Queen, King and  Cal King sizes and in a range of colors. These sheets have a velvety, soft hand and are very well cut to fit up to an 18-inch depth without being baggy. These are the “cotton percale” sheets I  remember from childhood. 

These sheets are smooth, luxurious; not noisy or rough. They launder beautifully in hot water and come out of the dryer nearly wrinkle-free. As I have time, I touch them up with the iron (I do love to iron), but honestly, I may stop doing that. It’s just not necessary. As a bonus, I see that today, JCPenney’s Royal Velvet 400-tc, WrinkleGuard Sheet Sets are on sale, starting at about $60 for size Full. Use the coupon code 4YOUSHOP at checkout to get an additional 20% off. That is a great deal! 

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Dear Mary: We desperately need a new upright vacuum cleaner. We are on a budget and fight allergens. What would you recommend? Thanks, Cindy

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Dear Cindy: You will not find a better nor more affordable vacuum than this Shark Professional Rotator Lift-Away vacuum, in my opinion. There are dozens of Shark models out there, however, this one is available right now for about $180 and comes with Shark’s Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology® + HEPA filter. I love that it is two vacuums in one—a lovely, lightweight upright as well as a lift-away pod that makes it easy and convenient for smaller jobs, like steps and staircases. Hope that helps!

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