Dear Sara: My daughter is moving into a new home, and she wants me to help her buy spices to stock her pantry. Which spices would you start with? -- Linda, New York
Dear Linda: I'd buy spice blends that can cover meats, poultry and vegetables, as well as spices for sweet and savory dishes. I suggest buying staples such as oregano, cinnamon, garlic and onion powder, basil, thyme, rosemary, chili powder, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, paprika, cumin, ginger, cloves, allspice, celery and parsley. She can add her own baking ingredients (salt, pepper, baking soda, vanilla, etc.) and expand her spices from there.
Dear Sara: What are your thoughts on potty training early to save on diapers? I've been reading about elimination communication and wondered what you think about it. -- Diana D., Wisconsin
Dear Diana D.: After changing diapers for 12 years straight, I feel qualified to give this slippery slope of a question a whirl. Personally, I was not in any rush to have my kids use the potty; it was important to me that I wait until I felt that each of my kids was ready.
Each parent makes his or her own decision on how to approach potty training. If someone wants to use the elimination communication method, I say good for them. I can see the appeal and benefits. I see it as a natural approach that is a good match for some families. It just wasn't for mine.
To answer your question: The elimination communication method's purpose is not to save money on diapers; that just happens to be a bonus. I would not go into it with frugality as your motivation.
Dear Sara: We just returned from a great vacation at a resort in Stowe, Vt., that had the best sheets I had ever slept on. The label on the sheets said Comphy, and I discovered on the Internet that the company produces high-quality microfiber bedding but does not sell to the public. If I could find a set that was like the hotel sheets, I would go to bed happy every night! -- Diana, Iowa
Dear Diana: I have used microfiber sheets, pillowcases and comforters. They are nice to sleep on. You can find various brands of microfiber sheets anywhere that sells linens, such as Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Wal-Mart, Costco, QVC, Sears, etc. As for the Comphy brand, I called their customer service line and a representative recommended buying from this online retailer: stopdropandrelax.com.