This Sheet Frustrates Me!


April 23, 2015


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. - Heloise 


Fast facts

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.

- Heloise


Nasty gnats

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 pesky creatures?
- 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 potting soil.

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


Damaged donations

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

Heloise’s Kitcheneering

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.

I 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.

- Heloise

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.

- Heloise


Best bookmarks

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!

- Heloise


Stall searching

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.

Heloise’s Kitcheneering

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


Club waffles

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.

I 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 fluffy texture.

- 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.



Gather the following ingredients:

2 cups biscuit mix

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 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! - Heloise)

* 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


Easy open

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, etc.

- Luis M., Brea, Calif.


Kitchen safety

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 counter.

- Mike Levy, Westminster, Calif.

Put 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


Be prepared

Dear Readers: 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 crocheting.

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

Noisy appliances

Dear 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.

Keep track

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 on.
- Sue Pratt, via email

Heloise’s kitcheneering

March 26, 2015

This idea lacks a peel

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


Peking roast

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 the following:

               First, to marinate:

               3-5 pounds roast beef

               Garlic and/or onion slivers

               1/2 to 1 cup apple-cider or white vinegar

               To cook:

               Cooking oil

               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 hours.

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 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


Graham-cracker hint

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

Dear 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



Dear Readers: 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.

- Heloise



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 in Texas

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 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 Houston



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

Hints 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 out.

Can you give me any pointers on how to make this easier for both Patches and me?

-- 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.

Indoor cats 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.

- Heloise



Dear Readers: 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



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

I 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.

I 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 


Hang 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 them."

A 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. - Heloise


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.

I 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


Reuse paper

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


Paint stirrer

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 Beach, Calif.

Hi, Marla. Thanks for reading my column. I use the chopsticks for my potted plants to aerate the soil.
- Hugs, Heloise


Book list

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









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