Dear Readers: This week’s SOUND OFF is about too-short sheets:
“I am frustrated about bedsheet manufacturers selling top-of-the-line
linens. They made accommodations for thicker mattresses. For that I am
grateful. However, they have not added inches to the top sheet to make
it long enough to tuck under the mattress at the foot of the bed.
“I use a satin pillowcase, so I have resorted to cutting up the
pillowcases that come with the sheets and sewing them to the bottom of
the top sheet. We want longer top sheets!” - E.S., via email
Stop! Don’t cut up a perfectly good pillowcase. I’ve done the same, but
I just use an “odd” sheet. No one sees the bottom part except me. This
is a good hint, too, for folks who are extra-tall and want more sheet. -
Dear Readers: Other uses for fish tanks:
Make into a terrarium.
Use for very small animals.
As a planter.
Make a “fake”terrarium.
As a storage container.
Dear Heloise: I have a number of houseplants, and I have a problem with
gnats. I think they are coming from the plants. I have tried to cut back
the amount of water I put on the plants, but the gnats seem to persist.
Do you know of anything I could put in the water to discourage these
- Margaret A., Marlin, Texas
Gnats do like damp, moist soil, so even if you are cutting back on
watering, if the soil is still moist, the gnats will stay. Plus, they
are there now! Quick fix: Let the top inch or two of the soil dry in
between waterings, if you can.
Remove 2-3 inches of soil (just the top) and replace with fresh, new
To kill the gnats that are there, use a cup of tap water and mix in a
drop or two of liquid dish soap. Pour over the soil like you are
watering it, until it’s saturated. Let it sit overnight, then flush with
fresh, clean water. They should be gone! - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I enjoy reading your column in the Springfield (Ohio)
News-Sun. I read your Sound Off about not donating useless or trashed
items. I agree.
As an avid thrift shopper, I asked a volunteer about this, and her
comment was that many people purchase this type of item for yard art and
craft projects. I worry about children picking up these items and
getting scratched or cut. I ask thrift stores to have a separate area
for those items (and possibly reduced prices for damaged items). -
Deb in Springfield, Ohio
Deb, thanks for the reminder! The old saying “One man’s trash is
another’s treasure” really does ring true! They see a broken clay pot, I
see pieces for the bottom of the next plant I am repotting. - Heloise
April 14, 2015
Dear readers: Here is this week’s Sound Off, about medication packaging:
“Do you know why pharmaceuticals package tablets in cards with
individual plastic pods for each tablet? It can’t be a simpler task than
just throwing them all in one container, as before. Many consumers,
especially those with arthritic hands, may find it very bothersome to
have to push the pills out one by one.”
George C., via email
George, you are right on target! This seems to be a problem for a lot of
my readers and a continuing complaint.
am not sure why pharmaceutical companies do this, but here is a guess:
This packaging may be cheaper, but I doubt it. Probably most important
is that this packaging is harder for children to get into. Yes, and
harder for adults, too. Depending on the drug and the manufacturer, the
pharmacy may be able to tell you if it does come in a bottle rather than
the blister packs - which, by the way, give me a blister when trying to
pry out one or two pills.
Dear Readers: Other uses for socks with no match:
Use to dust blinds and furniture.
Fill with rice or beans and make into a warming pad.
As a tug toy for dogs.
Use as garden gloves in a pinch.
Cut the toe off and pull over a bandage as protection.
Dear Readers: Many of you responded to a recent Sound Off about people
bending the corners of library-book pages. You agreed that it is
disrespectful to turn down the corners, and gave your suggestions on
what to use as bookmarks. Here are just a few:
Jon P. wrote, via email: “I always use the receipt the library gives me
when I check out the book. Not only does it make a great bookmark, I am
reminded when the book is due.”
Chuck in Santa Ana, Calif., wrote: “The ‘bookmark’ I use primarily is a
small sticky note. It sticks to the page, with no damage to the paper.”
Toby in Port St. Lucie, Fla., wrote: “I’ve discovered the very best
bookmark: a paper clip. It not only marks the page in your book, but
also your place on the page. Another excellent side effect is that
should you drop the book, the paper clip will stay in place, as opposed
to a piece of paper.”
Thanks for all the great suggestions!
Dear Heloise: When I use a public restroom, many times the toilet paper
is in a large, circular container. Most of the time the paper is not
extended out to reach, so one has to guess where it is. It is
frustrating trying to find the end. Here is what I do: I leave a bit
hanging down so the next person will find the beginning of the paper and
will not have to search!
Joy H., Webster, S.D.
April 9, 2015
Is mustard left out?
Dear Heloise: Do you have to refrigerate mustard after opening it? I
would prefer mine at room temperature.
Jim D. in Nebraska
No, you don’t! And I’m with you about the temperature. Commercial
mustard does not contain anything that might spoil. However,
manufacturers still do suggest refrigerating specialty mustards, like
Dijon or horseradish-style mustards, for best taste, but they still will
not spoil if left out. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I am a native Texan and resident of Spring, Texas. I enjoy
the columns in the Houston Chronicle and recall my father-in-law reading
your mother’s column for many years - he swore by her guidance.
recently bought biscuit mix and club soda in order to prepare those
terrific pancakes from your mom - but now I cannot locate the recipe.
Please reprint it so we can once again enjoy their great taste and
Sandy B., Spring, Texas
Sandy, how nice, and thanks for the kind words. It always makes me smile
when someone mentions a hint that was learned from my mother’s (the
original Heloise, 1919-1977) column.
HELOISE CLUB WAFFLES
Gather the following ingredients:
cups biscuit mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cups club soda
In a large bowl, place all the ingredients and mix with a large spoon.
Do not overmix! Cook immediately, or the mix will go flat. Delicious
waffles are on the way! - Heloise
P.S.: Make two batches, and freeze one for a morning when you don’t want
to fuss! - Heloise
Tea ball uses
Dear Readers: A recent column asked for hints about other uses for tea
balls. Here are just a few:
Marian Ballard, via email, said: “Though I do occasionally use a tea
ball, I have two. I fill one with cinnamon or a cinnamon-sugar mixture
and have an instant shaker that gives even coverage.” (Love it! -
Mark W. in Reading, Pa., wrote: “A couple of other uses for tea balls:
Put a couple of garlic cloves in one and suspend in cooking soup for the
flavor but not the chunks.
“Tea balls make great scent diffusers. Put a few drops of scented oil on
a cotton ball in a tea ball. This can then be placed in drawers, hung in
closets or even put in your car.”
All good hints. Keep them coming! - Heloise
Dear Heloise: When I empty a can of refried beans, I open the can and
turn it upside down on a plate or bowl. Then I use a can opener (that
makes a “v” shape) to make a hole on the bottom of the can. Lift it up
and all the beans come out clean. Same thing works for dog-food cans,
Luis M., Brea, Calif.
Dear Heloise: You can use a wooden cutting board to slide under a hot
baking sheet and remove it from the oven so you can safely put it on the
Mike Levy, Westminster, Calif.
the bite on 'Energy Vampires'
April 2, 2015
Dear Heloise: Here’s
a hint most people probably never thought of. If you have an elderly
parent who no longer drives or have an elderly neighbor in the same
situation, think about whether there’s a car in the driveway. If not,
that makes the home more of a target for burglars, etc.
If you need more
space to park a car, ask your neighbor or relative if you can park the
car in his or her driveway. This is a win-win situation: You have a
space for your car, and your neighbor has a car in the drive to help
make the home look occupied. We do this for my mom, and park our second
car in her driveway several nights a week.
It’s also a good
hint to remember if your relative or neighbor is in the hospital or
rehab center for several days or weeks. - Amy P., Decatur, Ala.
Melted ice cubes
Dear Heloise: I
believe you had a hint on how to tell if your power was out for a length
of time. It involved an ice cube. - John C., via email
I sure do, John, and
it is very simple. Take a few ice cubes and place them in a zippered bag
and then in the freezer. If you return and see that the cubes have
melted, then it’s a good guess that the power went out for a
considerable amount of time. - Heloise
Waiting rooms at hospitals usually are the last place anyone wants to
be. If you know you are going to be there for a while, go prepared. As
the saying goes, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” With
that being said, bring your cellphone charger in case you drain the
battery waiting. The old-fashioned way would be a crossword or a good
book you’ve been longing to read. Maybe now would be the time to take up
Please do not forget
about etiquette in the waiting room. If you have children with you,
please bring something to entertain them. Also, don’t let them run wild
or make a lot of noise. - Heloise
Recently, my dishwasher started making horrible noises. Because it
didn’t do it all the time, I grabbed my cellphone and recorded it. I
played it for the repairman, who knew right away what the problem was.
- Kris Powell, Lincoln, Neb.
Dear Heloise: A
couple of times a year, I clean my blinds a slat at a time with soap and
water. It never fails that the phone rings, someone comes to the door or
someone needs something. I can’t find where I left off. Just turning the
blind didn’t work. Now, I clip a clothespin to the last blind I worked
- Sue Pratt, via email
March 26, 2015
This idea lacks a
Dear Heloise: You are never too old to learn an easy way to peel
hard-boiled eggs. I boiled 10 eggs and put them in the refrigerator. A
few days ago, I wanted hard-boiled eggs, but I didn’t want cold eggs. I
put two eggs in the microwave for 20 seconds. I cracked the shell on the
large end and peeled. - W.D., via email
Your hint is a good reminder of how to reheat eggs, but here is what we
learned a couple of years ago after testing it at Heloise Central: The
eggs must already be OUT OF THE SHELL before microwaving. Additionally,
you must insert a toothpick in the egg to keep it from exploding while
heating. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: In your recipe for Mother’s Peking Roast, it says to use
vinegar. Is that white or apple-cider vinegar? - Louise, via email
You can use either! For those readers interested in the recipe, gather
First, to marinate:
3-5 pounds roast beef
Garlic and/or onion slivers
1/2 to 1 cup apple-cider or white vinegar
2 cups brewed, strong coffee
2 cups water
Salt and pepper
Using a sharp knife, cut slits all throughout the roast, and stick the
slivers of garlic, onion or both into those slits. Place the roast in a
bowl and pour the vinegar over it, making sure to get it into the slits.
Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for 24-48
To cook, remove the roast from the bowl and dump out the vinegar. Use a
heavy Dutch oven or similar pot to brown the roast on all sides in oil.
Once browned, pour the coffee over the meat and add the water. Cover and
cook slowly for about 6 hours on the stovetop. Check while cooking, as
you may need to add more water as the roast cooks. About 20-30 minutes
before serving, season well with salt and pepper. For more favorite
recipes, order my Heloise’s All-Time Favorite Recipes pamphlet online at
www.Heloise.com or by sending $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70
cents) envelope to: Heloise/All-Time, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX
78279-5001. Use the leftover roast to make delicious hot or cold
sandwiches the next day! - Heloise
Dear Heloise: My way of making graham-cracker crumbs is to put graham
crackers between two pieces of wax paper and use a rolling pin to roll
over them until they are crumby. When finished, just pull up the wax
paper on either side and put the crumbs into a bowl. No mess! It is
cheaper than buying the already-crumbed graham crackers. I learned this
from my mom, who is now 87.
- Joanne Rasmussen, Huntington Beach, Calif.
A trashy neighborhood
March 17, 2015
Readers: Here is this week’s Sound Off, about trash bins being left out:
“We have a mandatory
homeowners association in my neighborhood. One of the rules is that
trash bins are not to be left out for extended periods of time or left
visible (like out by the garage). It really irks me when I see some of
the bins by the garage instead of inside the garage or fence. It is even
worse when I see trash or recycling bins left by the curb days after
pickup day. It doesn’t make our neighborhood look very nice.”
- A.H., via email
This can be
annoying, especially for those who follow the rules. The diplomatic way
is to bring up this subject at a homeowners meeting. Then the
association can contact the homeowner. - Heloise
Here are other uses for empty tissue boxes:
* Keep ribbon and
bows in one.
* Place one on
the dryer to put used dryer sheets and lint in.
* Use as storage for
all your plastic grocery bags.
* Put in a car
and use as a trash can.
* Let kids use for
their small toys.
Dear Heloise: We
moved into a new house, and the grout in the shower could use some
cleaning up. Do you have any hints to help it look nicer? - Isabelle
congratulations on your new home. I'll share the Heloise grout-cleaner
recipe so you (and other readers) can get the shower-stall grout clean.
For this recipe,
you will need 1/4 cup of borax, 1/2 cup of baking soda and warm water,
just enough to make a thick paste. Use an old toothbrush or something
similar, apply the paste to the grout and gently scrub with a soft
brush. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, then rinse. To help keep the grout
clean, be sure to leave the shower door or curtain open so there is no
moisture to affect the grout! Have cleaning problems in your new home?
Or want to know how to keep your home looking like new? Order my
pamphlet Heloise's Homemade Cleaning Solutions to learn all my hints! To
receive, send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope
to: Heloise/Cleaners, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. To
order online, go to www.Heloise.com.
Have dirty cleaning rags? Wash them in the washing machine (by
themselves) to get them clean. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I
read how one mom uses leftover hamburger buns for peanut butter and
jelly sandwiches. We apply butter and garlic or spices to them. Slice
them after toasting, then cut into strips. They complement spaghetti
dishes or other meals where garlic bread would be welcome. - Jay in
Dear Heloise: To
easily remove candle wax from candlesticks, stick them in the freezer
for an hour or so. When I take them out, the candle wax easily pops off
the candlesticks. - Becca in Tennessee
From Heloise: The great indoors?
Feb. 26, 2015
Dear Heloise: I am
hoping you can assist me with a question about my cat, Patches. She is
an INDOOR/OUTDOOR CAT, and we are moving to a new home to take care of
in-laws. I would prefer her to be strictly indoors, so that she would
always be safe. She is 13 years old.
Can I train her to
stay inside and become an indoor cat? My vet said to just do it, and
eventually she will quit crying when she learns I’m not going to let her
you give me any pointers on how to make this easier for both Patches and
-- Cheryl in San Antonio
“Meow” to Patches
and “Hi” to you! Moving for any pet (or human) can be upsetting and a
stressful change. As far as her “wanting” to be outside, of course she
wants to! She has been doing so, and now she can’t! You’re a loving and
responsible owner, knowing it could be dangerous for her outside. She
may not come back.
Do set up some
“distractions” for her: a scratching post and new toys. An elevated,
carpet-lined perch by a window will let Patches look outside and keep
watch about what is going on. I once saw a large motor home with a
pop-out “cat window.” The owners had attached a large wire cage, with
carpet on the bottom, to the window. The cat went through the window
“outside” to sit and watch the world go by, but was safe. You could try
something like that for Patches.
She may try to sneak
out when a door is open, so do be sure that everyone in the house keeps
an eye on her. Maybe distract her when you leave. She will fuss and make
noise, but you must stay the course.
generally are healthier and live longer, so she most likely will have
more happy years with you.
While on this
subject, please do be sure that your cat is microchipped. Anyone moving
with pets should get new tags and update contact information.
Karen in Bingham, Maine, sent a picture of her adorable mini schnauzer,
Maggie. Maggie has stretched herself out between the easy chair and the
ottoman. She really doesn’t look all that comfy! To see Maggie and our
other Pet Pals, visit www. Heloise.com.
Dear Heloise: My
wife and I eat breakfast or lunch out several times a week. We meet up
with friends, have a nice meal, and there’s no cooking or cleaning up.
Alice is the cook and I’m the bottle washer, so it’s “the kitchen is
closed” time off.
Here’s how we save a
bundle of money: Drink water rather than iced tea or coffee. A cup of
coffee can run $2.50, and iced tea the same. We each order a salad and
an appetizer sometimes, and not expensive entrees. It adds up.
- Dennis and Dixie, Washington, D.C.
Outwitting sticky pie crusts
Feb. 18, 2015
Dear Heloise: I often purchase the FROZEN PIE SHELLS to
bake pies, and I have difficulty removing slices from the pan after they
are baked; the pie crust is always stuck. Do you have any suggestions
for how to make this easy without breaking up the slices? -- Carole
Owings, Wildwood, Fla.
Carol, that's just a plain ... well ... pain! Here are some hints to
consider. Switch brands to see if a different one does not stick it may
be that simple. It may be the type of pie you are baking. If you
pre-bake the pie crust, poke holes in it, bake, then add the filling
However, if you are baking a pie with filling (pecan, pumpkin or my fave
... blue- or blackberry!), DO NOT poke the shell with a fork. Doing so
will let sticky liquid seep through and will cause the crust to stick.
Do let the pie (and crust) cool before cutting
Last resort? Remove the frozen crust, grease the pan, put the crust back
in and proceed. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: Every year around the holidays, I buy a bottle of cocktail
sauce. I use only a small amount. It sits in the refrigerator for
several months, then I toss it out. Is there any other use for it? I
checked the label, and it only lists shrimp. Should I just buy more
shrimp? -- Dan in McDonald, Ohio
Dan, don't toss the sauce or buy more shrimp! This sauce is basically
spicy ketchup, so get adventurous! Put it on burgers, hot dogs and
fries. It works with crab, too
It makes a zingy dip when poured over cream cheese. I run a fork through
the slab of soft cream cheese to score it, then pour on the sauce. Set
out with crackers, and ta-da ... quick-and-easy eating. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I purchased a 12-cup coffeemaker. It s the same model as
my previous one. The paper coffee filters almost always collapse, and
grounds end up in the coffee. Any help would be appreciated.
-- Bonnie, via e-mail
have tasted coffee grounds in fresh-brewed coffee! Yes, the same filters
(do be sure they are the old filters) should work. However, I bought
some same brand, same size filters on the Internet, and they did this
too. You can wet the filter to make it stick - this should help. Or try
a permanent filter that you wash out. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I buy honey at a big-box store. After a while, it
crystallizes, and I would heat it in a pot of water to thin it out.
solved my problem by putting it into small jars. If it starts to
crystallize, I put it on the top rack of the dishwasher. When the cycle
is finished, the honey is back to the way it was before. It works
perfectly. Just be sure the lid is on tight. -- Shirley L. in Florida
Shirley, this is a HONEY of a HINT, and I love it! -- Heloise
on to those ideas
Feb. 11, 2015
Dear readers: In a recent column, Bev A. asked for hints about what to
do with all the plastic hangers she had. Here are just a handful of all
of the hints readers sent:
Dolores S. in Mansfield,
Ohio, wrote: "Please mention the laundromat. I worked at a laundry for
three years, and we could always use hangers. The owner had to buy boxes
of them, and donations would help with expenses. People wanted their
laundry hung up, but wouldn't bring their own hangers."
Nancy Meyer, via email, wrote: "We help settle refugees, and really need
hangers when we set up their apartments. Spread the word to check with
an agency in the area that settles refugees. They will gladly take
reader, via email, wrote: "Other great ideas for extra hangers are to
contact hospitals. The hangers seem to disappear from the patient rooms
when patients are discharged."
All good hints, and it's wonderful to find out about great ways to
recycle hangers. Here is another hint from me: See if nursing homes and
assisted-living facilities would be able to use extra hangers. -
Ready for exercise
Dear Heloise: Many people have made a New Year's resolution to exercise
or get more fit. I have a piece of advice that works for me. Have
workout clothes ready. If you have to search for the socks, the shoes,
the top and the pants, it won't take long to be discouraged.
have walked every day (2 miles) for 37 years, and I have my clothes
ready to jump into in the morning. Another hint: Get it done in the
morning, if you can. As the day progresses, you are less likely to feel
like doing it. - Corrinne B., Universal City, Texas
Dear Heloise: With the popularity of gift bags instead of wrapped
presents, a lot of tissue paper is needed. I never buy tissue paper
because I gathered all the paper from last year's gift bags and ironed
them. They are good as new, and I am able to use the paper several
times. - Kaye in Arkansas
Dear Heloise: Ever wonder what to do with all the chopsticks that come
with takeout Chinese food? Wonder no more. Chopsticks make great paint
stirrers if you have small cans of paint. Don't pull the chopsticks
apart, and they will work great to mix your paint. Heloise, thanks for
the helpful hints. I read your column every morning. - Marla S., Seal
Hi, Marla. Thanks for reading my column. I use the chopsticks for my
potted plants to aerate the soil.
- Hugs, Heloise
Dear Heloise: I created a folder I have saved to my desktop on my
computer, which I update every time I finish a book. Then, when I go
shopping for more books, I print a copy and take it with me to prevent
buying a book I have already enjoyed. - Conrad, via email