For many, Memorial Day has pretty much morphed from a day of remembrance to a much anticipated three-day weekend with exciting outdoor events that officially welcome the start of summer. But it’s more than that.

In fact, it’s not really about a big blowout holiday weekend at all. It’s about remembering our history and those who’ve gone before. The purpose of Memorial Day is to memorialize the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country—who gave their lives to protect our freedom.

 

 

U.S. history was not something stressed or even talked about in my family growing up. I possessed a general timeline of events but that was about it. All of that changed for me when I married a man for whom our American history is more than a few facts memorized to get past a final exam.

My husband Harold lives and breathes our nation’s history. He planned our honeymoon around visits to Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, culminating with an all-day visit to Gettysburg National Military Park.

I was gobsmacked by what I didn’t know. Such an emotionally packed tour I’d never experienced. I learned more that day than I’d learned about our nation’s history in my 16 years of formal education.

Read more

Are trips through the closest fast-food joint driving a hole through your food budget? It’s no wonder. Prices on all foods are sky-rocketing, but fast food takes that prize. Yikes!

 

Homemade Chicken Fingers in a Basket Better than Fast-Food Drive-Thru

 

Unlike supermarkets where every week you can find fabulous sales, you’ll never find sales at Wendy’s, McDonald’s or Burger King. Or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter. I don’t consider an occasional coupon to be a Sale.

I know what you’re thinking: Chicken. Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Fingers, Chicken Sandwiches—they’re all so tasty from these places, so convenient and so kid-friendly.

Consider this: In less time than it takes you to get into the car and drive to the closest drive-thru, you can make your own fast-food chicken fare—for half the price, or less. In fact, you can make a fabulous coating mix to mimic the best-coated chicken you’ve ever eaten, in five minutes flat.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll get three bonuses for your effort:

Read more

If the heat of summer is bringing ants into your home and yard, don’t panic. You may not require toxic pest control products or a professional service to take care of the problem. In fact, chances are good you already have everything you need to do it yourself.

 

 

Here are 10 ways to get rid of ants using ordinary things you have around the house or in the garage.

Soap and water

If you have ants or other bugs around the house, pour a 50/50 mixture of Blue Dawn dish soap and water into an empty spray bottle and keep it handy. When you see the insects, spray them with the mixture. Provided you really saturate those little critters, the soap actually breaks down their exoskeletons, and they die almost immediately. Cheap and easy cleanup, too.

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.

Black pepper

To deter sugar ants, sprinkle ground black pepper around the home’s entry points to keep the ants from coming inside.

Read more

Faithful readers will recall that my husband and I tested and now continue to enjoy the most popular meal kit delivery service.

 

 

Since first writing about that (Dinner-in-a-Box is Not at All What I Thought) I’ve gotten the most interesting feedback. But first, a quick review:

From the meal kit delivery services available at that time, I selected Home Chef because 1) our zip code is in its delivery area—nearly 98% of the country is, 2) it is the cheapest and 3) I predicted it would be the most family-friendly. Turns out I nailed it.

Home Chef meals are absolutely delicious and use normal, fresh food—not exotic fare or ingredients we’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce.

A Home Chef meal kit includes all of the fresh ingredients and instructions needed to cook restaurant-quality meals for 2, 4 or 6 people in the comfort of your own kitchen, eliminating recipe searches and food shopping by sending everything required for that meal—perfectly portioned and ready to go.

Seriously, Home Chef is like having your own personal shopper and sous chef. Read more

Taking care of hardwood or laminate floors can be challenging given the everyday conditions of a family and pets. But keeping your home looking good is crucial to maintaining its value.

Generally, there are two types of residential wood flooring: real wood (solid or engineered) and laminates that are man-made to look like wood. 

 

Gorgeous hardwood and laminate kitchen floors

 

Hardwood

Solid 

Solid hardwood floors are made of planks milled from a single piece of timber.

Engineered

Engineered hardwood is made from layers of material that have been glued together, with a layer of hardwood on the top. Typically engineered wood comes finished wiht a clear protective coating or finish. 

Laminate

Laminate flooring is manmade, a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together in a factory using a lamination process. The top layer of laminate flooring is photographic material that is made to look like wood including a clear protective finish. Read more

Got grimy kitchen cabinets? Don’t think you’re the only one. Unfortunately, wood cabinets—painted or natural with a clear finish—are prone to all sorts of grease, grime, and gunk from simply being in the kitchen.

Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

Depending on just how much grease and grime you’re looking at and the supplies you have available, there are several options to clean kitchen cabinets. At least one should help to get the job done—plus one final suggestion for how to keep your clean cabinets looking gorgeous!

Blue Dawn

Apply a few drops of concentrated dish liquid like blue Dawn, into a bowl of warm water. Dip the soft side of a sponge in it. Squeeze the sponge until suds form. The cleaning agents in Dawn absorb grease just as well on kitchen surfaces as they do on dishes. Apply to the dirty kitchen cabinet, wiping the grease with the soft sponge until it is removed. Immediately dry the surfaces with a clean cloth to prevent streaking.

Kitchen gunk remover

Bust through hardened, dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. Mix one-part any vegetable oil to two-parts baking soda. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth or paper towel. That ugly, greasy, dirty build-up on cabinets will begin to soften and start to disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

White vinegar

Vinegar is not just for making pickles or drizzling over French fries. It has grease-busting, cleaning ability. Dampen a clean, dry cloth with undiluted white vinegar, and wipe down greasy cabinets. Rinse your cloth with warm water, wring out most of the moisture, and use it to rinse the cabinetry. Dry the damp surfaces with a paper towel, but note any still-sticky spots that need a second attempt.

Caution: Vinegar should be used only occasionally, to remove greasy grime, not for maintenance. Its acidic nature may, over time, begin to dull the surface.

 

Woman with cleaning supplies ready to clean kitchen cabinets

Soap and paint thinner

This is a heavy-duty, industrial strength solution. Use it on the toughest, most stubborn grease and grime, knowing that it could remove a layer of the finish. Mix equal parts of paint thinner and mild soap, such as Murphy Oil Soap. Apply with a sponge or paintbrush. Wipe the solution away with a rag to clear the dirt; you’ll likely remove a thin layer of varnish or shellac, because the grime may have melded with it.

Wood polish and conditioner

After rigorous cleaning, wood cabinets are thirsty for moisture and protection. But you want to be careful that you don’t make matters worse by using something that will create a new kind of build-up that becomes a magnet to kitchen grease and grime.

You won’t find a better product to do that than Howard’s Feed-n-Wax Wood Polish and Conditioner. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil to keep the wood from drying out, while at the same time repelling kitchen grease. Fantastic for all of the wood surfaces in your home—not only kitchen cabinets.

CAUTION: Before attempting to use any of these options on any wood surface—painted or natural—test first in an inconspicuous place so you know how the method of cleaning will react.

First published: 3-26-17; Updated with new info and photo credit 5-19-19

PREVIOUSLY: Put a Big Smile on Your Face with a Dental Savings Plan


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

I opened my inbox and right near the top was a frantic letter from Lisa, who’s facing an emergency dental situation with a $15,000 price tag on it. She is desperate for options that will let her keep her teeth while not plunging her into debt.

smiling woman

 

Another letter from the Madison family related that their finances are so tight, they cannot afford the luxury of regular dental care—not even routine x-rays and cleaning. That letter ended, “Is there a dental plan for families in our situation? Please answer soon before our teeth fall out!”


RELATED: Would You Floss for $8,000?


While I am not a dentist, I know that dental care is not a luxury. It is essential to the good health of every family member. And the best way for Lisa and the Madison Family to avoid big dental bills is to practice regular preventive careEven then, routine hygiene and x-rays should be seen as absolutely mandatory.

Read more

You bought the biggest home they said you could qualify, taking advantage of low rates and creative financing. Who knew you could afford such a great house? 

 

Concept of a home that is mortgaged to the hilt

But now several years later, your low-interest rate has disappeared and the adjustable-rate mortgage that seemed like a good idea keeps pushing your payments higher. Or perhaps you took out a fixed-rate mortgage with an inflated interest-rate due to your super low downpayment.

If all that isn’t bad enough, instead of increasing in value your home’s market value appears to be slipping. You worry it’s about to take a nosedive. 

A recent survey found that 58% of Americans are concerned that the real estate market is going to crash, that there will be a “housing bubble and price correction” by 2020. As a result, 83% of them believe it’s a good time to sell.

On the other hand, there are plenty of experts who contend that is wrong—a housing crash isn’t imminent. 

Rather than getting caught up with worry over the big picture or arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong, here are eight specific things you can do right now to make sure your personal housing bubble doesn’t burst.

Read more