Cats and germs roam friend's kitchen

February 26, 2014 

Dear Readers: I'm stepping away from the "Ask Amy" column for a week. Please enjoy these hand-picked "best of" columns in my absence.

Dear Amy: I have a dear friend who announced she was going to start her own catering business. She is a very talented cook and enlisted my help. I had not been to her home prior to this, and when I got there I could not believe my eyes.

There was mud tracked all over the floor; the stove and counters were encrusted with various types of spills; the cabinets and walls had drips and smears all over them. She has cats, and I even saw one trying to eat out of a pot on the stove! But by far the most horrific thing I witnessed was this ratty sponge she had. Not only did she wash dishes with it, but she would halfheartedly clean the counters with it, and once she wiped up a spill off the floor with it. Then back in the sink it went.

— So incredibly grossed out (2004)

Dear Grossed: Pets probably aren't even the primary problem here. As you note, the sponge your friend uses is its own weapon of mass destruction.

I found a very helpful website sponsored by the Partnership for Food Safety Education ( You can download fact sheets about safe food handling in the home to share with her. Perusing the site, I learned, for instance, that we should be washing our hands with soap for a full 20 seconds before and after handling food. Twenty seconds is a long time. The site also has tips on safe food handling techniques and recommendations for how to clean, cook and store food.

Dear Amy: I am 23 and living with my dad in my grandmother's house.

My father treats me with respect and like the adult I am. Most of all, he respects my privacy. She gives me grief about my finances — and lots of other things.

Mainly, she seems to hate the fact that I have pen pals. I enjoy writing letters, and I have pen pals scattered across the U.S. and Canada. I've been writing to most of them for more than five years.

My grandma thinks this is the stupidest thing she has ever heard of. Yesterday I came home, and she was reading one of my letters. How can I deal with this?

— Kylie (2005)

Dear Kylie: I priced some security options for you and your mail. One product I saw is a small safe that has a locking mechanism that even a determined grandmother might find impossible to crack. It is made by a well-known manufacturer and costs less than $30.


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