DEAR MARY ANN: My wife and I recently moved from a small townhouse into an older but much larger and much nicer home. Even with our limited budget, by buying at a nearby auction house we have been able to gradually furnish the house with quality wooden furniture we otherwise could not afford. What we are missing is a couch. We regularly see older antique-looking couches at auction, ones that would correspond with the antique-type furniture we already have. My wife says taking home used upholstered furniture is disgusting. I say, if it looks and smells OK and does not have any visible stains, it would be fine after a professional steam cleaning. Is my wife just being paranoid, or is she right? -- COUPLE WITH A COUCH QUANDARY
DEAR COUPLE: New or used furniture, don't let the bed bugs bite. Buying auction house furniture is a fabulous way to outfit a new home. The thrill of bidding on an item combined with getting a great deal on the piece is half the fun of making the purchase. Your wife does have a valid point, however, when she draws the line on buying a used couch from an auction house. Used upholstery from an unknown source may end up costing you more in dollars and aggravation than you are saving. Hidden extras can be mold, imbedded odor, moth eggs and, most recently, bed bugs. Be wary. Remember, you will want to sleep tight so don't be tight with the money on this one.
DEAR MARY ANN: My wife and I are experiencing a new version of a "mixed marriage." She is a vegan most of the time, and I recently became convinced that low-carb is the way to go. In general, I now avoid the types of food she eats and she avoids the types of food I eat. We eat almost all of our meals at home, and dining out on a regular basis does not appear to be an option. Any suggestions? -- LOW-CARB HUSBAND WITH VEGAN WIFE
DEAR LOW-CARB HUSBAND: Get over the idea that you are joined at the hip and have to eat the same things. Make a list of the foods that overlap each diet plan and build a base of recipes you both enjoy, incorporating these foods. An example would be leafy green salads with low-carb vegetables. Think like a nutritionist and a chef as you educate yourself and learn new cooking habits. Serve a blend of vegan and low-carb meals from recipes you've never tried or thought you would never like. Make a smorgasbord of leftovers for busy days. Years ago Jack Sprat and his wife resolved a similar problem.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: email@example.com or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.