Month: December 2015

“Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep”

I saw that phrase on a sign outside a dentist’s office years ago. I remembered it because it’s true and useful. I confess that for decades I lied to dentists and hygienists. ‘Oh, yes, I floss’ (this morning, so I’d be sort of telling you the truth today).

Then one year they showed me the x-rays from that day and the same view from a year earlier. The bone loss was clearly visible. The bone is what makes your teeth stay in, and I do want to keep my teeth. That day I started flossing and do so to this day. One of the excuses I had was that I didn’t feel like I had time. I timed it once, it took less than a minute. I have time.

Here’s a relevant clip from my book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century, now available in paperback on

“Lately I’ve noticed dental floss costing more and/or having less floss in the container. Since dental work is many times more expensive than dental floss, I still buy it. Consuming less floss per use is one idea. I thought that would happen with a dental floss holder I bought at Search on “Flossaid Dental Floss Holder.” It probably would have, but my teeth are close together and the holder didn’t hold the floss taut enough for it to work. …

I tried some other things. Nylon upholstery thread was strong enough, but too round to slide down between my crowded teeth. Regular strength sewing thread fit between my teeth but broke right away. So did embroidery floss. So, I went back to dental floss. Walmart’s Equate brand costs 87 cents for 55 yards. The name brand costs $2.62 for the same amount. So far, Walmart’s is the least expensive floss I’ve found.

I looked for reusable tools that can do some of the things that floss does. All sources agreed that flossing is by far the best. But what if you can’t floss or want to do more than just floss? The goal is to disturb the colonies of bacteria, to stop plaque from forming.

One tool is the rubber-tipped dental stimulator, the kind that used to be built in to the handles of toothbrushes. This tool is flexible and pointy. You run the point along the intersection of your gums and teeth, disturbing the plaque at the gum line. You can also put the point in between your teeth at the gum line and wiggle it to improve blood flow to the gums.

Another tool is the interdental brush. It looks like a teeny-tiny bottlebrush. They come in different sizes and degrees of softness. They slide in between the teeth at the gum line to brush the insides where a regular toothbrush won’t go.

GUM® makes a semi-disposable form of these called Soft-Picks®. Each one lasts more than one use, but not for long enough to be a permanent tool. I tried one of these. I had thought it might hurt or feel creepy. In fact, it felt good and I could tell it would clean the gum area between the teeth better than floss alone.

Both of these tools can be disinfected just like your toothbrush. You can use mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or rubbing alcohol.”

Today, New Year’s Eve, is a good time to renew your vows to floss regularly, if you don’t already.


Vitreous Separation

Recently I posted about the program at Volunteer eye doctors provide no cost eye exams to eligible people who have no insurance.

Today I had a complete eye exam with a nearby provider. The exam was thorough and professional, and I got the answer to a question I’ve been asking for ten years.

I’ve had the little black thread floaters for decades. I learned to just look past them and they didn’t bother me. The thing no doctor before had been able to diagnose is the weird floaty things that seem like little snips of a jellyfish drifting by. I can’t see through them, and they interfere with close work, on the computer or reading.

This doctor could see them and knew right away that they are caused by vitreous separation. The ‘vitreous humour’ is the clear gel that fills the eye between the lens and the retina in the eyeball. It is full of tiny fibers that attach it to the retina. With age, these fibers gradually let go, allowing bits of the vitreous to float free, and block my view.

There’s no medical danger in this, unless it pulls the retina loose. If that happens I’ll see a curtain of darkness come down, and need to call the eye doctor right away. That only happens 15% of the time.

Their program is largely aimed at seniors, but they serve younger people also. If it’s been a while since you had an eye exam and you have no insurance, check it out.

Cleaning Up

It’s always something. A beverage slops onto the floor, grease splatters, dust settles. Life’s messy. I used to clean it up with paper towels. Here lately a roll of paper towels costs as much to buy as a cloth rag or kitchen towel at the dollar store. When I moved four years ago I left the paper towels on the dispenser in the old place, to be nice to the new owner. I never got around to buying any more. Sometimes I looked at them in the store, but for something I’m going to use once and throw away, they cost so much.

I have a set of kitchen towels on which to dry my hands, and a vast selection of cloths and sponges for cleaning and for wiping things up. Retired washcloths seem to do very well for actual cleaning, while Handi-Wipes are great for wiping up spills. They rinse out easily and dry quickly. I feel a lot better, financially and environmentally, buying something once and re-using it many times.

I used to buy commercial cleaning products. Now I mix equal parts white vinegar and water with some dish liquid and it cleans almost everything to a sparkling shine. For abrasion, I use baking soda and a sponge with a scrubby side. It really doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s only decades of commercial advertising that makes us think so.

Aging Eyes

Here’s some information for older people without vision insurance. offers free vision exams to qualifying seniors. Their questionnaire determines your risk factors. If you haven’t had an exam recently and have no vision insurance, they’ll connect you with a volunteer eye doctor in your area. Only the exam is free, not glasses or possible medical treatment.

Nice to set your mind at ease about the health of your eyes.

Sign up!

The other day I went to to buy business cards to advertise my book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. At first, I was going to order as a guest, without registering with the site. I changed my mind and registered. By the time I worked my way through designing the card, I had an email offering me 25% off my purchase. With the discount I got 500 cards for about the same prices as 250. Shipping was the same for either quantity.

Registering with a retail site has real and immediate benefits. I’ve gotten meaningful discounts at nearly every site I’ve registered with.

Borax for mildew

For years I thought that chlorine bleach was the only way to get rid of mildew stains. I knew of things that killed mildew, but left the black or gray stain. Straight vinegar with or without tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract, let sit for hours. Straight hydrogen peroxide, apply and let sit for up to an hour. Then scrub, scrub, scrub to remove the dead mold. And rinse, rinse, rinse to get rid of any lingering spores. I preferred the magic of just pouring bleach on it. Pouf! both mildew and the stain of it were gone.

On the other hand, bleach is harsh on fabrics. Yesterday I tried Borax. I washed a mildewed shower curtain and curtain liner with Borax in the washing machine. The ratio for soaking fabrics is supposed to be 1 cup Borax per quart of water. I didn’t measure, just used a lot of Borax, maybe two cups, and the lowest water setting on the washer. With a vinyl liner, warm water is better. In cold, the liner stays stiff and awkward to handle when you take it out. If you throw in a couple of towels with it, they will help rub it clean.

It came out perfectly clean and bright, and smelled clean in a mild, non-perfumed way. The information I had said no need to rinse, the Borax left in the material will help stave off new mildew.I didn’t rinse, so we’ll see if it takes longer for the mildew to come back.

For upholstery, including outdoor furniture, dissolve ½ cup Borax in two cups of hot water and sponge it onto the mildewed area. Don’t use so much that it soaks the filling, this is only for the surface.

Ahh, Hash Browns

I like hash browns, they’re yummy. Other people like them too. Waffle House even has a song on their jukebox that’s a tribute to hash browns. Until today, I could only get them in restaurants, and thus at restaurant prices. I’ve tried to make them over the years. I tried baking or microwaving the potato first and then pan frying it. It came out bland and sort of dry. I tried shredding and cooking raw potato. It came out soggy.

Today I tried something I saw on a cooking show. I scrubbed a whole raw baking potato and shredded it using the shredding side of my four-sided grater. I shredded the potatoes onto a kitchen towel and folded them up inside the towel. I set a heavy skillet on them to press the extra water out of the potatoes. I let it sit while I chopped onions to cook with it.

Meanwhile, bacon grease was heating on the stove in a large, heavy skillet at ‘5’ on the 0 thru 10 electric dial. When the grease spat hot and the towel felt wet, I carefully added the shredded potato and chopped onion (onions are optional) to the hot skillet. Seasoned with salt, fresh ground black pepper, dried parsley, and a sprinkle of Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Seasoning.

For once, I exercised enough patience to let the potatoes get crisp and brown on the bottom before turning them. Then I turned the heat down to ‘3’, to give the potatoes time to cook all the way through while the second side browned. Remove from the pan as soon as they are done.

Dang, those were good!

The potato water will stain the kitchen towel brown. If that wasn’t your goal, rinse the towel in cold water immediately.

Sometimes my breakfast mood calls for sausage gravy. My taste for that has been formed mainly by what they give you in restaurants. Experimentation has revealed that the less expensive canned Libby’s Country Sausage Gravy comes closer to my expectation than the fancier Campbell’s brand. Also, when microwaving a few spoonfuls to pour over breakfast, it helps to add just a little water to the bowl.

Bon appetit!