DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm a single girl, and I'm about to move into my first apartment. Because of my limited abilities in the kitchen, I usually eat out. But I know I will need to spend my money more wisely and learn how to cook now that I will be living on my own and will have more bills.
I am not the best cook. My specialty dishes are scrambled eggs and spaghetti with meat sauce ... and that is it. I've invested in cookbooks, but I get overwhelmed when I look through them.
Do you have any tips for someone who is learning to cook? -- Single and Starving, Brooklyn, N.Y.
DEAR SINGLE AND STARVING: I feel your pain! When I got my first apartment, 40 miles away from home, my mother made food and brought it to me. Thank goodness, I figured out over time that her wonderful support had to end.
The biggest thing you have to do is change your mindset. Instead of believing that you cannot make meals, take on cooking as a wonderful challenge. You can find video recipes online in which someone demonstrates how to prepare a meal, so that you don't have to read and interpret the recipe. Someone literally shows you how to do it. This website features many such recipes: www.myrecipes.com/quick-and-easy.
You also may want to invite a friend for dinner. Sometimes when you know you are making food for someone else, you put extra effort into the process, which can be incredibly rewarding for everyone.
Bottom line: Choose simple recipes and experiment. Over time, you will be able to expand your repertoire.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My ex and I broke up three years ago. We were together for eight years, and my mother loves her. In fact, she considers my ex the daughter she never had.
After our breakup, my mother continued to call my ex and invite her out to dinner. They go shopping together, and she invites her to special family gatherings, even holiday dinners! This has become increasingly awkward, especially since I now have a new girlfriend.
This exchange between my mother and my ex makes it difficult for my new girlfriend to even have a chance. How do I tell my mother that her relationship with my ex makes me uncomfortable? -- Aggravated Son, Long Island, N.Y.
DEAR AGGRAVATED SON: If you had a relationship for eight years with your ex, chances are she became family with your mom. Just because you two broke up doesn't mean that your mother stopped loving her, as is evidenced by their relationship.
Instead of trying to squash their bond, tell your mother that you have a new girlfriend and that it's important to you that your mom makes room for her in her life. Tell your mother that you know she and your ex are close, but ask that she reconsider some of the activities to which she invites your ex because it's awkward for you. She may not be aware of how her actions are affecting you.