DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbors' backyard and mine touch. They had a pool, but it collapsed. Instead of fixing it, they've left it that way for over a year. The water is green and murky, and it is attracting insects and animals. We are friendly enough with our neighbors, but I feel like their issues are spilling over onto us. How should we approach them? -- Health Hazard

DEAR HEALTH HAZARD: Start by talking to your neighbors. Point out that the standing water in their pool is attracting unwelcome animals and bugs, and you are concerned about your family's health -- as well as theirs. Request that they drain the pool at the very least. Ideally, they should dismantle and dispose of the pool remnants. You can make that request as well. If they refuse or drag their heels, you can call 311 and report the health hazard to your local authorities. The hotter it gets, the more creatures and germs that murky water is likely to attract.

If you are up to the challenge, you could offer to help them. If not, make it clear to them that either they handle this problem, or you will be forced to call the authorities.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I've recently made some lifestyle changes for my health, and I had to switch gears regarding what types of food I make. I am not all the way vegan, but I have adapted a majority plant-based diet. I am known in my family as an amazing cook. But after experimenting with these new plant-based recipes, certain techniques and ingredients can't be used the same way. It is a bit discouraging when my food doesn't come out as good or as impressive as it used to be. I want to eat healthy, but I don't want to compromise my reputation. -- Learning to Cook Again

DEAR LEARNING TO COOK AGAIN: Give yourself a break. You are learning how to cook food that you weren't eating on a regular basis, if at all. It takes time to figure out how to use new spices as well as different cooking techniques, and longer still to perfect them. It is natural that it will take time for you to discover how to master the right flavors for these new foods. Also, if you are limiting or eliminating salt, that means you need to learn how to substitute other spices to replace that flavor. Give yourself time to learn. Consider taking a class so that you can learn from experts about how to prepare vegetarian or vegan dishes. Make it fun, and in time you will be able to make delicious meals that rival those you used to make.

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