Try 3 months for $3

Dear Mary: Twenty years ago I was lucky enough to receive a five-piece, service for 12, Spode Christmas Tree China (green band) from my mother. Since then, I have filled out the set with many accessory pieces. When washing the china in the dishwasher I have been very careful to use the gentle/china cycle and cool dry. There has been no fading of the green band around the plates, cups, bake ware, etc., but the gold band around some of the glasses I bought only six years ago has washed away. A friend said it wasn't the cycle, but that I needed to use a gentle dishwasher soap. However, no one knew or could agree on what was a gentle detergent. I'm hoping you can give me some help.

-- Thank you, Susan.

Dear Susan: First, let me say that I am so jealous. That is an amazing set, a wonderful treasure. The problem for any china, glassware or crystal that has gold, silver or platinum trim is the hot water. It will actually flake that fine metal trim away. And once it is gone, there's nothing you can do to bring it back. That's why I want to strongly suggest that from now on you hand wash these beautiful items in mild soap and warm water. And I'm not alone in this. Spode recommends that any of its ware (china, imperialware, vitreous) not marked as dishwasher safe, be hand washed only. It's an investment of your time that will come back to bless you with many years of enjoyment.

Humidifier advice

Dear Mary: I enjoy your daily columns a lot. Can you let me know what bedroom humidifier you recommend? Thank you.

– Maria

Dear Maria: Take a serious look at the Honeywell Germ Free Cool Mist Humidifier. I love it for its quiet technology and the fact that it does not spray germs and microbes all over the room. This particular unit easily handles a medium-sized bedroom. You can clean the water tank in the dishwasher, which is a big plus for me because, as you know, I love my dishwasher for more things than only dishwasher-safe dishes! For the price, I don't think you can go wrong with this humidifier. And it looks pretty cool, too.

Bragging humiliates

Dear Mary: My mother has always been very generous with me. When I got married, she lent my wife and me the money for the down payment on our home, a loan I repaid in full. Since then, Mom has given me several other loans, most of which I repaid, though several were forgiven at her insistence.

In recent years, Mom has begun bragging about her generosity to us, and it makes us feel small. At family gatherings, she'll say to others in our pretense something like, "It was my pleasure to see that they could buy a house," or "When the kids wanted to go to summer camp, you know who wrote the check." I don't think she means to, but it is humiliating. Should we confront her or just suck it up and shut up?

– Tom

Dear Tom: It's never right to make oneself appear superior at the expense of making others feel small. Even if she is unaware of what she's doing, that doesn't take her off the hook. But you have to understand that her lending you money is not a secret she's obligated to take to her grave. My opinion is that she is not aware how this makes you and your wife feel uncomfortable. I suggest taking her out for coffee and a heart-to-heart chat. The worse that can happen is that she will continue doing as she has. But there's a greater chance that she will see how this is hurting you and then do all she can to change her behavior.

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