Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off comes from a reader whose frustrations
center around the bags inside breakfast-cereal boxes.
Jim S. in Houston wrote: “One of my pet peeves is the difficulty in
opening plastic bags inside boxed items such as cereal. One would think
that in this technological age, someone would have figured out how to
make easy-to-open bags. Do you have any solution other than scissors?"
Jim, the best solution I have is scissors, because it’s only sometimes
that “the powers that be” are on your side and these bags can be easily
opened. Since that’s a rarity, your best bet is a pair of scissors.
Dear Readers: Here are some things you can consider making when you have
skeins of leftover yarn:
Crochet simple scarves or mittens and give to homeless shelters.
Knit baby caps and give to hospitals for NICU (neonatal intensive-care
Knit or crochet large squares or rectangles and send to animal shelters
for bedding or covering.
Make articles of clothing and place in donation boxes/stations.
Search the web for free patterns for one-skein projects.
Good uses for extra
Dear Readers: I just gave you some hints for using up those extra skeins
of yarn, which are listed in the Fast Facts. A reader wrote in about
what she does with her skeins, and since it supports the column so well,
I thought I’d share it with my readers. - Heloise
“I crochet small projects and have leftover yarn. My winter project is
combining the leftover skeins and making 50-by-6-inch scarves with
multicolored tassels on each end and donating them to a local food
“I use simple crochet stitches, such as single and double. It keeps me
busy, and someone can always use a warm scarf. A word of caution: Don’t
make them with scratchy-fiber-type yarn.” - C. Duffy in Alabama
Follow-up on binder
Dear Readers: I’ve seen a few letters cross my desk with other ways to
use binder clips. The ones below are hints I’d not considered but were
great hints nonetheless. - Heloise
Mary H. in Arlington, Va., wrote: “When the ‘stand’ on my digital egg
timer broke, I used a medium-size binder clip to replace it. Worked
Emily S. in Borger, Texas, wrote: “I read your column in the Amarillo
(Texas) Globe-News each day and just finished reading your hints for
binder clips. I am a quilter and use them to hold the quilt top, batting
and backing taut so that I can start pinning everything together before
Alice A. in San Antonio wrote: “I make and quilt baby quilts and pads.
Instead of pinning the quilt pieces together for sewing, I roll them
together and place about five large, black clips on the roll. It holds
the pieces in place and allows me to free-motion quilt with ease.”
Lane selection goes down the line
Jan. 11, 2016
Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about grocery-store cashiers not being
considerate of people who’ve been in line waiting to check out. -
“Often when standing in line to purchase merchandise at a grocery or
other store, an employee will open a new cash-register line and signal
the person farthest behind me, who has been waiting the least amount of
time, to come over to her newly opened line. Why do they rarely invite
the person who has been waiting the longest in the nearby line to start
the new line?
“I understand why they don’t if I’ve put my merchandise on the conveyor
belt; then I’m stuck in my line. But often I’m standing in plain sight
and have been waiting a long time, and could easily move over to the new
line without making anyone back up.
“I’ve occasionally said something, with the result of being scowled at
as if I’m being rude for even mentioning it.” - A Faithful Waco,
Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for an over-the-door plastic shoe
Put near a makeup table for shadows, lipsticks, powders, etc.
Hang in your bedroom to separate and store jewelry.
Put in a craft room to hold small items like spools of thread or
Hang in the bathroom to hold toiletries.
Put in a garage to store nuts, bolts, washers, staples, etc.
Chess pieces for
Dear Heloise: I read your column regarding gaming pieces but didn’t see
ours mentioned, so I thought I’d write you and tell you what we use for
any of our board games that are lacking pieces. We’ve found that small
chess pieces work well. Not only is there a queen, king, knight, bishop,
rook and pawn, but you also have your choice of black or white!
Twelve different pieces to choose from is plenty, even for my large
family. I love reading your hints in the San Antonio Express-News, and
have found many of them useful in day-to-day living. Thanks!
- Valerie R., via email
Dear Heloise: The women in our neighborhood share many things that are
life-, money- and/or time-saving. One thing we do to save money and
paper is swap magazines.
This gives us more to read without having to subscribe to another
magazine, which helps with our family budget. An added bonus is that by
sharing copies, we figure we’re saving on paper, too.
At the end of each swap, I’ve offered to gather any magazines we don’t
care to keep, cut off any address labels and take them to a nearby
senior-citizens community. - Blanche D., via email
Dear Heloise: Love your column! A reader recently shared how she soaks
the labels off old prescription bottles. I’m a pharmacy tech, and we get
them off with a hair dryer. A few seconds of blowing and it peels right
This blow-drying technique works with a lot of other labels, too. -
Susan, via email
forward to pay it forward
Jan. 5, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound On comes from a reader who works as a
morning manager at a fast-food restaurant in San Antonio. - Heloise
“It’s a different experience working the morning shift as opposed to the
evening or night shifts. Morning customers seem to be much more
pleasant, probably because their day’s just beginning!
“More than twice, while working the drive-thru, customers have paid for
their meal but have also picked up the tab of the vehicle behind them.
This action prompted the people in that vehicle to pick up the tab of
the vehicle behind them, and so on and so on.
“One morning, 14 customers ‘paid it forward’ by paying for the next
customer’s order. The last car in the line had no one behind him, so he
graciously accepted the ‘paid in full’ gift of the previous customer.
“This simple little action keeps me believing in the niceness of
people!” - Ryan A., via email
Dear Readers: Here are some other things you can use as gaming pieces
for board games:
tiny wads of colored sticky notes
pebbles or rocks
Dear Heloise: I have a feather duster that’s in dire need of cleaning.
I’ve tried different powders and gentle solutions, but haven’t had much
success. Do you have any ideas, or should I just give it up and purchase
a new one? - Frank M., via email
Frank, try cornstarch. Simply place the duster in a strong plastic or
paper bag, then pour in a box of cornstarch. Hold the bag closed tight
and shake hard for about 15-30 seconds. This is best done outside.
Remove the feather duster from the bag and shake out until the rest of
the cornstarch is removed. Some of my best cleaning solutions are in a
pamphlet titled Homemade Cleaning Solutions. To get one, visit www.
Heloise.com, or send a business-size, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents)
envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/ HCS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio,
TX 78279-5001. Should you decide to make any of my cleaning solutions,
be sure to label your bottles appropriately, since different cleaners
work on different surfaces, and you would hate to ruin a surface because
you used the wrong cleaner! - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I was reading your article on removing or destroying the
labels on empty medicine bottles and was curious as to why one would do
that. What info can someone get off them? - Jamie H., via email
posed this question to my office staff. Here’s what came out of the
discussion: It was unanimous that it’s nobody’s business what is
One staff member stated, “If you had meds for a ‘transmitted’ disease or
were on meds for some kind of emotional disorder, would you want that
information out in the open? Maybe, maybe not, but that should be your
choice, not chance’s choice.” Bottom line: Better to be safe than sorry.
Dec. 29, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about after-Christmas decorations.
The reader wrote: “I agree with Rita in Austin, Texas, who complained
about stores setting up Christmas displays so early.
“She also might be interested to know that as the operation
superintendent of a large chain department store, I had orders to clear
out all decorations before opening for business on Dec. 26.
“So, the entire display crew plus some extras came to work at 4 a.m. to
accomplish the task. Sadly, that really proved to me how commercialized
we have made Christmas.” - John R., Mission Viejo, Calif.
So, to clarify: Your workers enjoyed Christmas Day with their families,
knowing they needed to cut the evening short so that they could go to
bed early and get up early, so that they could get to work early to take
down decorations! That’s a holiday downer! Hope they were paid at least
time and a half. - Heloise
Dear Readers: Here are some other objects to use as a pencil holder:
A tall pill container.
A plastic commemorative cup.
A toothbrush holder that is sectioned.
A clean, decorative jelly jar.
A small terra-cotta planter.
And the survey said!
Dear Readers: The verdict’s in! Recently, I asked you to tell me how you
felt about music in stores, and the response was unbelievable! So many
of you sent in your thoughts on the subject that I could write a
research paper, but I won’t!
With 250-plus letters and emails, here’s a summary of the responses:
Eighty-eight percent of you overwhelmingly oppose the loud music. Some
walk out; others won’t even walk through the door. The No. 1 response
for this group: it’s nerve- wracking!
Seven percent are OK with the music and said that it puts them in a
better mood. Some even sing or hum along while shopping.
Only 5 percent of the responders were “on the fence.” These readers can
take it or leave it. Some said they’re not even aware of it until
someone starts singing or humming along.
Some research suggests that stores now play music that targets a certain
age group, based on its customers. - Heloise
Dear Readers: If you have a non-working paper shredder, consider holding
on to the container. Here are just a few ways you can use it:
reader from Huntsville, Ala., wrote in and said that because of its
height, it was perfect for soaking a foot or leg.
It also can be placed between tight spaces and used as a wastebasket, an
extra clothes hamper or a toy container. - Heloise
More countertop space
Dear Readers: Here’s a hint to consider if you find yourself needing a
little extra countertop space in the kitchen: Try opening a drawer all
the way and placing a cookie sheet in it. If possible, close the drawer
until the cookie sheet fits tightly. The lip around the sheet will keep
anything from going inside the drawer.
Christmas gift gets boxed out
Dec. 21, 2016
Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about the boxes given out at
Christmastime to fill for needy children. A reader wrote: “For quite a
few years now, there have been projects to gift children in need with
toys at Christmas, and many use shoebox-size containers for this.
“However, it's difficult to find appropriate gifts that fit inside a
shoebox (like a small basketball and hoop, or a tea set). I wish more
manufacturers would take this into consideration and package more toys
to fit this requirement.
“I have no problem finding smaller items, like yo-yos, jump ropes,
dolls, etc., but I sure have a hard time with the 'main gift.'“ -
Gigi in Colorado Springs, Colo.
I'll bet there are others who feel as you do, and to that I'd say, “It
really is the thoughtfulness that counts.”
Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for clean cereal bags:
As a cookie sheet for cooling cookies.
Place spices and meats inside to coat before grilling.
Place crackers inside before crushing.
Use between rows of baked items for transport.
To block the drain when peeling vegetables, eggs, fruits, etc.
Dear Heloise: I saw your column about flavored teas. I use loose tea and
add dried orange or lemon peel. Then I add dried rose petals.
During the holidays, I add cloves and cinnamon. What keeps my teas from
becoming bitter is my blend of a variety of teas with orange, calendula
petals, ginger and dried mangos. I enjoy your column in The Columbian.
- Annie, via email
Annie, you've just proven that making flavored tea has endless
possibilities, which is why I've created a pamphlet of hints for
experimenting with both coffees and teas. To get one, simply go on my
website, www. Heloise.com, and order my pamphlet titled Heloise's
Flavored Coffees and Teas. Or you can send $3 and a stamped (68 cents),
self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Coffee, P.O. Box
795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Flavorful coffees and teas seem to
be much more popular and, therefore, enjoyable than before. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: We have game night often. Therefore, we have a variety of
board games, which come with game pieces. In an effort not to lose them,
I bought a tin that came with its own lid.
placed all the pieces for each game inside its own “snack” bag, labeled
it and placed it inside the tin. We bring it out every time it's game
night. We've not lost a piece yet! - Sandy W. in Houston
Another soap dish
Dear Heloise: You listed some good makeshift soap dishes, but not the
one I made the permanent one in my guest bathroom. I use a clear glass
butter dish, which easily holds a bar of soap. I also have a pump
dispenser to please everyone's taste. - Terri D., Brea, Calif.
With glass, consider placing a strip of non-adhesive shelf liner under
it to keep it from slipping. - Heloise
Dec. 14, 2016
Dear Readers: Today's Sound On comes from a reader who, along with her
neighborhood, is trying to make a positive impact on rebuilding the
declining monarch butterfly population. She wrote:
“My neighborhood has become afflicted with 'monarch madness'! We are
trying, one plant at a time, to make our 'hood' into a monarch butterfly
oasis. There are several houses on each block that have milkweed plants,
which provide food for the monarch caterpillars and the hatched
“Our local hardware and garden center found out about the monarch
project and offered a very nice discount on the plants.” - Karen in
For those who might not know, the milkweed plant is a hardy plant that
is easy to grow and maintain. The blooms are colorful and provide food
for many species of butterflies, as well as hummingbirds and bees.
Dear Readers: Here is a list of other things you can use as ornament
Thin, decorative ribbon
Natural jute or twine
Large safety pins.
Letter of laughter
Dear Heloise: I used to be a secretary in customer service at the Naval
Supply Center in San Diego. In addition to U.S. ship personnel, we
received calls from personnel assigned to foreign ships visiting the
always answered my phone, “Customer service, Kathy Potts.” I answered as
usual one day and was greeted by silence. I could hear background noise
and knew that connections were not always clear, so again I said,
“Customer service, Kathy Potts.”
Someone cleared their throat on the other end of the line. I said, “Good
morning, this is Kathy Potts in customer service.” A heavily accented
voice on the line asked, tentatively, “Coffee pots?” I still laugh aloud
when I share this story. - Kathy Potts, via email
Dear Heloise: A while back, David W. wrote in about putting money in
library books. While that would be a nice treat to find, I would be
concerned that someone had “accidentally” left it there and then would
be out the money, especially if it is a large bill.
So, I would like to suggest that he put a note with the money, stating
something to the fact that this is a free gift. Enjoy! - A Reader,
This is what I would call making an original hint even better! I'll bet
many of us would do exactly as this reader and not recognize a free gift
if it fell in our lap! - Heloise
Three rules for
Dear Readers: When you are ready to conquer a stain, keep these helpful
hints in mind:
1. The sooner, the better. The longer it is left on fabric, the more
difficult it will be to remove.
2. Lift the stain slowly. Some stains will require time, patience and
3. Repeat as often as necessary. Some stains require more than one
In search of 'free'
Dec. 7, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about evaporated-milk containers. A
reader wrote: “We usually keep an open can of evaporated milk in the
refrigerator for coffee, cooking, etc.
“I don’t understand why the manufacturers don’t offer this milk in a
container that you can close or seal to avoid spillage and picking up
odors from the refrigerator.
“So until the manufacturers wake up, we just snap on a clean pet-food
lid!” - Paul in Bella Vista, Ark.
Paul, thanks for your Sound Off, and your solution! I’ll bet others who
also use this milk and have this same problem will try your hint. -
Dear Heloise: In sorting all my clothes, I’ve removed dozens of shoulder
pads. I know they can be used as potholders, but what else? - Jean
A., Alexandria, Va.
Here are some other uses for shoulder pads:
Washable makeup-remover pads.
Scales for a homemade fish costume, or quilt a blanket with them.
Eye patches at Halloween.
Dear Readers: Many of you were sympathetic with Yssa’s frustrations
about grocery shopping, and voiced your own frustrations as well.
In theory, it’s easy to say, “Let’s be realistic” or “Who has time to
plan ahead” or my favorite, “Find a different time to shop, either late
at night or early in the morning, when the shelves are stocked and the
shoppers are few,” but the bottom line is this: Grocery shopping can be
a frustrating experience.
Other issues mentioned include the following:
Don’t let your kids go wild pushing the shopping cart.
Pushing the basket down the left side of the aisle impedes traffic flow.
If you must talk on your phone, get out of the shopping aisle,
especially if the call has nothing to do with shopping.
When checking out, don’t wait until the checker has totaled your order
before looking for your “payment plan.”
If the sign says, “Twenty items or less,” that means no more than 20
Don’t shoot the messenger! This list is compiled from my readers, who
took the time to share their thoughts and frustrations about grocery
shopping. - Heloise
Dear Readers: Recently, a reader wrote in about her socks shrinking over
time, and she wanted hints on preventing this from happening. Here’s
what others said:
Constance W., via email, said some companies are now making “extended”
socks for larger feet. Her podiatrist also said that feet tend to “grow”
because our arches gradually drop as we age.
Elizabeth W., via email, said: “Socks with spandex shrink in the dryer
and stay that way. Cotton socks can be partially dried on ‘cool’ and
then manually stretched and hung to dry in order to maintain size.”
Finally, a reader from Kansas said: “Stores aren’t carrying 100 percent
cotton socks. Instead they are 75 percent cotton, 25 percent polyester
and 2 percent spandex.” (Which, by the way, is 102 percent, but I get
your point!) - Heloise
In search of 'free'
Nov. 30, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about finding phone numbers without
having access to “the white pages.” (For the young readers, that’s a
reference to the printed phone book! - Heloise) A reader wrote: “My
Sound Off regards trying to find a phone number or address without the
“I’ve tried online search engines that claim to be FREE, but after they
compile what amounts to a dossier on the person whose number and address
are the only things you need, up pops a screen with prices for a
subscription with the company.
“How do these companies get away with saying something is FREE, then
expect you to pay for the service?”
- Lynda D. in San Antonio
Dear Readers: Here are some other ways that binder clips can be used:
Clip to calendars and hang on the nail instead of the hole on the pages.
To keep draperies or curtains closed.
To keep pants, skirts and/or tank tops from slipping off hangers.
To keep the rolled part of your toothpaste tube from unrolling.
To seal the opening of chip, candy, cracker, etc., bags.
Dear Readers: Back in July, I posted a Sound Off from a young lady who
bought an “engagement” ring for her fiancé.
wise, sympathetic reader wrote: “My husband of 43 years stopped wearing
his wedding ring shortly after we were married because the type of work
he did almost caused him to lose a finger. It’s never bothered me.
“Just remember, someone will cheat no matter what. In this day and age,
I don’t really think seeing a ring on someone’s finger stops many
people.” - J.K., via email
The commitment is in the bond you have with your life partner, with or
without a ring. - Heloise
Bacteria on sponges
Dear Heloise: I read that to remove bacteria from kitchen sponges, you
should dampen with water and then stick them in the microwave on high
for about 30-60 seconds. Does this really work?
- Georgia H. in San Antonio
Georgia, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) found that two
effective ways to sterilize sponges are in the microwave and in a
dishwasher that has a water-temperature-boost feature and a heated
Be sure the sponges are damp before sticking them in the microwave, and
be careful when done. They will be EXTREMELY HOT!
Shaving with shampoo
Dear Heloise: Here’s a hint I stumbled upon quite by accident. One day,
I lathered my beard with a little shampoo before applying my shaving
cream. The shave seemed to be better!
- James F. in San Francisco
James, you stumbled on a longtime Heloise hint. Many women do the same
when shaving legs. Sure can’t hurt.
That's a holiday wrap!
Nov. 17, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about holiday plates: “Why can’t
manufacturers make a nice variety of square and rectangular holiday
plates for goodies? Have you ever tried to put foil or plastic around a
large circular plate? It never fits!” - Barbara C. in Montana
Barbara, it’s a little bothersome and somewhat frustrating. Here is a
hint: Rather than putting the wrap over the food, then tucking it UNDER
the plate, place the wrap UNDER the plate (put several pieces on the
counter, “fanned out” in a circle) and pull the wrap UP over the food.
Twist to seal, or close with a twist-tie. Thanks to my husband, David,
for showing me this hint! - Heloise
Dear Readers: Other uses for cotton swabs:
Use to dip into a lipstick tube to get the last bit!
Dip in rubbing alcohol and clean around yucky computer keys.
For knickknacks, to clean small areas.
For a small paint touch-up.
Remove nail polish from cuticles.
Iron the wax
Dear Heloise: To get candle wax off my carpet, I placed a paper towel on
top of the wax and ironed it very lightly with an iron on the lowest
heat setting. I repeated this process until no more wax appeared on the
paper towel. This process lifted all the wax off the carpet. - Dora
G., via email
Dora, just remember that before taking an iron to spilled wax on carpet,
the wax must be DRY AND COOL first. - Heloise
Denver Brew Sauce
Dear Heloise: I seem to remember you had a marinade/barbecue sauce
recipe that uses dark beer. It was really tasty and different. Can you
please find it for me? - Virginia M. in Houston
Yes, I do! It does have a “kick” to it, and is easy to make. Here it is:
Heloise’s Denver Brew Sauce/Marinade
cup dark beer
1/4 cup vegetable oil
tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Use as is right
away, or put into a lidded jar or bottle, then store in the
refrigerator. It will keep for up to seven days. For more delicious
sauces and marinades, including many family recipes, order my
Seasonings, Sauces and Substitutes pamphlet. Please visit www.
Heloise.com, or send $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents)
Heloise/SSS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.
Meat that has been marinated tastes better than simply seasoning it
before grilling or cooking. Once you make this one, next time make it
your own by adding different ingredients! - Heloise
Calling for some human interaction
Nov. 10, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about customers on cellphones. The
reader wrote: “I work in retail sales. Some customers bring their
merchandise for checkout and continue to talk on their cellphone. It’s
difficult sometimes to complete the sale as quickly as possible. The
people in line behind the customer give me a look!” - Anonymous, via
Dear Anonymous: It seems we use cellphones everywhere! Unless it’s an
emergency, the customer should take a few minutes to pay attention to
the transaction. Why not have a human, face-to-face encounter?
Salespeople work very hard and deserve to be acknowledged.
Readers, what say you? - Heloise
Dear Readers: Other ways to use hair conditioner:
Put into nails as a cuticle conditioner.
To loosen a ring stuck on one’s finger.
As shaving cream for smooth skin.
To keep outdoor tools from rusting.
Before changing a car’s oil, rub on hands for easier cleanup.
Dear Heloise: Do you have a good recipe for icing that you can pass my
way? I prefer to make my cakes from scratch, so when I put store-bought
frosting on it, I feel like I’m taking away the “from scratch” factor!
- Wanda N., via email
Sure do, and it’s called Old-Fashioned Icing. You will need the
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup milk
Pinch of salt
teaspoon lemon juice
Cream the butter, shortening and sugar until it’s not grainy. Add flour,
one spoonful at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk,
beat, then add vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Turn mixer on high and
beat for 12 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. I have many family and
friends’ recipes and baking hints in my pamphlet. It also includes some
of my mother’s favorite recipes that you will find very tasty. To order
a copy of Heloise’s Cake Recipes pamphlet, visit my website,
www.Heloise.com, or send $3 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed,
business-size envelope to: Heloise/ Cake Recipes, P.O. Box 795001, San
Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Baked goods, especially those that are homemade,
are always a hit. Glad I could help you with your icing! - Heloise
Dear Heloise: Please remind your readers that it’s important to remove
the information from empty medicine bottles before disposing of them.
Thankfully, pharmacies seem to be making an attempt to help by leaving a
tab that can be pulled, thus destroying the label.
If there’s not a tab, I place liquid dish detergent on the label (a very
small amount). I hold the label under warm water, rinsing and scrubbing
it until it is no longer readable. The label will still be on the
bottle, but no information. - Rose T., via email
Good hint, and here is another way: Rub the label with an emery board.
end of one-stop shopping?
Nov. 3, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about shopping, and multiple letters
came in about this:
reader in Columbus, Ohio, wrote, "To get the most value for my shopping
dollars, I have to shop at several grocery stores.”
Texas reader wrote: “Whenever I shop, I make a list and then shop at
three different stores to get everything on the list. One large chain
store is my favorite, but it doesn’t carry everything I need, so I
complete the list at the other two stores. I think I’m going to try
online shopping very soon.”
But then Rosemary Q.W., via email, said, “If everyone continues to shop
online, eventually we will have no local stores, which equals empty
storefronts and more unemployment.”
So, what’s your take? Which reader can you identify with? Send me your
Dear Readers: Here is a list of other places a bar stool could come in
handy besides under your kitchen island:
In a craft room under your sewing or cutting table.
In the bathroom for young ones to sit on as you help them get ready for
In a game room for gamers.
A lower stool for under your vanity mirror and as an extra seat in the
As a work stool when working in the garage at a table or flat surface.
Another use for
Dear Heloise: If you have a computer keyboard with a missing foot or
two, take a medium-size binder clip and divide it into three parts.
Replace the keyboard legs with the wire parts of the binder clip.
This will give the computer keyboard a bit more height than the original
feet gave it. I find it easier to type on the computer keyboard with the
added height. - Mary, via email
tried this hint on two different keyboards in my office, and a staff
member tried it on her computer boards at home. We couldn’t get the
height you mentioned. Help me out, readers. What are we missing here?
New lid is not a snap
Oct. 27, 2016
Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the new lids that are on
margarine containers. Linda wrote: “My Sound Off is about the new lids
manufacturers are placing on margarine containers.
"They won’t stay on the margarine, and the product takes on odors from
the fridge. I have called several manufacturers. They are nice enough
but offer no solution. Give me back my snap-on lid! Thank you.”
- Linda, Frustrated in Louisiana
New designs are supposed to make things better. Maybe this new lid is
easier to open but more difficult to seal. Manufacturers will listen if
enough people call in with their concerns. - Heloise
Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for ice cubes:
To water hanging plants and Christmas trees.
To remove dents in the carpet made from recently moved furniture.
Place inside a soft cloth and rub it over a wrinkle before ironing.
Place in pet bowls for cool water on hot days.
To mask the taste of medicine, suck on an ice cube to numb the taste
Dear Heloise: I’ve seen more and more “tea” shops springing up in our
malls and stores, and I have to ask, “What’s up with that?” I drink tea,
and to me, this is a drink that is so easy to be creative with that you
can try almost anything to creatively enhance the flavor. Can you give
me other ideas for special tea flavors? I love to experiment with
flavors, and will try almost anything at least once! - Tory D. in
If you haven’t done this yet, try adding candy, like peppermint sticks,
lemon drops or even a couple of red-hot cinnamon candies. For a
comprehensive list, along with facts, methods, instructions and hints,
you can go on my website, www.Heloise.com, and order my pamphlet titled
Heloise’s Flavored Coffees and Teas. Or you can send $3 and a stamped
(68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Coffee,
P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Great-tasting tea shouldn’t
have to come from tea shops. Learn to make your own flavorful teas, and
you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money! - Heloise
Dear Readers: We recently wrote about other uses for bedsheets, and
readers wrote in to tell me how they use them. These responses were sent
Marta W. said she drapes them over newly budded shrubs or plants if a
frost is predicted for the overnight hours, then removes them in the
morning to let the sun shine on them.
Sherry G. carries sheets in her car in case an animal gets injured. She
will use the bedsheet to carry the injured animal to wherever it needs
to go. She handed an injured dog to its owner, bedsheet and all, so that
he could take the dog home in its weakened condition.
And finally, Anita B. said that local animal shelters love to get all
sorts of bedding, bath towels and throw rugs (without rubber backing).
Watch what you spray
Oct. 21, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is from a reader complaining about
aerosol sunblock. She said: “My pet peeve is people who spray aerosol
sunblock without noting the wind and who might get a faceful when they
spray it. At a recent trip to the beach, I received a faceful of it
several times when the wind blew it my way. My daughter, who has asthma,
is unable to breathe when many aerosols are sprayed.
“Please ask your readers to be kind to others and be aware of the breeze
when spraying aerosol of any kind outdoors. It could end up in someone’s
eyes, mouth or all over the food they’re eating.”
- Betty, via email
solution to the problem could be to have people hold a large towel
behind them and then in front of them (like wings) while getting
sprayed. That could eliminate some aerosols from being airborne. -
Dear Readers: Here is a list of a few natural exfoliators you can use
instead of commercial ones:
You might ask, “Why go natural when commercial is easy to buy and comes
in a variety of choices?” Research shows that many of these products
contain microbeads, which are terrible for the environment. These small,
plastic beads don’t biodegrade, and they are being washed into our water
supply. Reason enough for me!
Letter of laughter -
baking soda to the rescue
Dear Heloise: I thought you might enjoy a baking-soda story. One
Saturday morning, my husband was out doing some work on his pickup while
my neighbor and I were inside enjoying a cup of coffee.
After a little while, my husband came leisurely strolling in the back
door and said to me, “Mama, would you get me a box of soda, please?” I
just said: “Why? What are you going to do with it?” He replied, “Well, I
just need some out there.”
After a couple of more questions and answers, he began to lose patience,
and finally said: “DARN IT! MY TRUCK’S ON FIRE!” At that point, I got up
and got him the soda. He used it on the fire, and the truck was fine.
- Jeanne J., San Angelo, Texas
Dear Heloise: Here’s a hint I use to save on paper towels: Place a paper
towel on top of several sheets of newspaper, then place fried meats or
veggies on the paper towel to absorb a lot of grease without using more
than one or two paper towels. Saves money and paper towels.
also do the same after frying bacon in the microwave. Then I just toss
all of the old papers in the trash.
Donna W., via email
Easy grip for bags
Dear Heloise: My husband cut an old garden hose into pieces that I can
use to protect my fingers when carrying grocery bags. Works great! -
Harriet B., via email
Oct. 13, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about shopping carts. A reader wrote:
“It’s always very busy when I grocery-shop. The last thing I want to do
is wait for people to decide which item they are going to buy while
their shopping cart is either on the opposite side of them or, worse
yet, in the middle of the aisle, blocking both sides of the traffic
“Is it too much to expect people to keep their cart in front of them?
“Plan ahead, find what you need, grab it and go, and keep that cart
right in front of you. Just this little consideration would make some
people’s shopping experience so much nicer.” - Yssa W., via email
Dear Readers: Place mats can get pretty pricey. Here’s a list of other
things you can use as place mats:
A vinyl tablecloth cut into shapes of your choice.
Quilted squares reinforced with backing sewn onto it.
Children’s artwork, laminated.
Letter of laughter:
Do you have T-I-M-E?
Dear Heloise: One day while following a recipe, I discovered I was out
of thyme, so I went next door and asked my neighbor, “Do you have any
thyme?” She said “yes” and proceeded to invite me to sit down.
After about 15 minutes of chitchat, I said I had to leave to finish my
cooking, so if she had the thyme, I should get it and get going. Upon
seeing a puzzled look on her face, I think we both realized that she was
thinking “t-i-m-e.” - Mary W. in Missouri
Dear Heloise: I read in the Orange County (Calif.) Register what
Beatrice S. wrote about how she gives monetary gifts to graduates. For
years, I’ve been doing something similar with my faraway grandchildren.
Beginning when they were small, I would send a check for twice or three
times (no four times yet) their age at that birthday, telling them that
for me they’re worth that much. For them it’s been a source of fun to
expect a check from Grandpa for an odd amount, like $63 when they turned
21 years young.
- A Happy Grandpa, Irvine, Calif.
How lucky the kids are to have you, Grandpa! It’s a nice positive
reinforcement. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I bought a box of chocolates from a “closeout store.”
However, the chocolate looks gray, and I don’t know if it’s still good
to eat. - James, via email
Enjoy that chocolate without worry! The grayish color is called “bloom,”
and it occurs when the cocoa butter in the chocolate rises to the top.
This usually happens when the candy is stored in a warm or humid area.
It doesn’t affect the candy in any way, except for the change in
appearance. - Heloise
soon for holiday decorations
Oct. 6, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the early holiday decorations
already up in many stores. A reader wrote: “We are barely out of ‘Back
to School’ sales, and already stores are setting up for Halloween,
Thanksgiving and Christmas! What’s up with that?
“Why can’t these stores let us breathe a little bit before the holiday
rushes begin? These stores put out so many decorations that I dread
going in to shop. It’s just too much, too soon.” - Rita T., Austin,
Rita, you do make a valid complaint, as I’ve heard many people lament
about this same issue. But let me give you another perspective to
Many of these stores are generally craft stores or have sections devoted
to crafting. People who make things to sell before the holidays or to
give as gifts during the holidays need to get a head start on their
projects. These stores “bank” on crafters buying their supplies from
them. - Heloise
Dear Readers: Don’t throw out those cute little baby hairbrushes. Here
are some other uses for them:
To clean the fuzz off mushroom heads.
As a gentle facial exfoliator.
To clean dryer lint screens.
Put under a bar of soap to keep it from getting slimy.
As a scrubber to get dirt out from under your nails.
Underarm stains and
Dear Readers: Recently, we had a question about underarm stains. Here’s
yet another hint on how to remove them:
“Dear Heloise: My husband wears old white T-shirts when working outside.
They can get pretty nasty, especially during the summer months in Texas.
The armpits are the worst, and I can’t seem to get the stains out as
well as I’d like to. I’d appreciate any ideas you might have on dealing
with this laundry problem?” - Vicky R. in San Antonio
Vicky, sweat and odor stains can be removed easily enough. Turn the
shirts inside out and place inside a sink or large bowl. Pour
full-strength household vinegar and allow to soak for 30 minutes or so,
then wash as normal. For more hints on how you can use vinegar around
the house, I’ve created a pamphlet just for this acidic liquid. To order
a copy, visit www.Heloise.com, or send $5 and a long, self-addressed,
stamped (68 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San
Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Vinegar is safe to use over and over again, so
treating his shirts as often as needed will be OK. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I use liquid soap in my kitchen and bathroom, but I still
like the smell of some of the bar soaps you can find at trade and craft
shows. Sometimes I just can’t help buying some. When I do, I place them
inside my clothes drawers, still sealed in their paper packaging.
Eventually my clothes take on a faint scent from the soap, which I love.
The one I have in my sock drawer has been there for three years, and it
is still going strong! - Allison B. in Houston
Stop the music!
Sept. 28, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the music that’s played in
retail stores. This reader wrote: “Why do retail stores seem to believe
that customers need to be entertained with music while shopping?
“I find it extremely distracting to try to concentrate on what I am
shopping for when bombarded by loud and distasteful music. Shoppers are
not there to listen to the Top 10 hits! If music is necessary at all, it
should be heard only as background music.
“Am I the only person who feels this way? Maybe the influence of Heloise
fans’ opinions will be influential. Love your column!” - Barbara in
don’t know, Barbara - let’s put it out there! Do any of my readers have
an opinion about this? What’s your take on music while shopping? I’m
curious. - Heloise
Dear Readers: Here are some other items that can easily be used as a
“spur of the moment” soap dish.
A small, decorative salad plate.
A plastic lid from a container or chip can.
A planter base.
A small plastic bowl or container.
Dear Heloise: My linen pants have a drawstring waist (similar to a
shoestring) that has become knotted, and I can’t unknot it. Is the only
solution to cut it? - Lynann, via email
Lynann, it sounds like that string is useless, but all’s not lost. Get
another drawstring, preferably one that doesn’t fray or unravel. Make
sure the length is similar to the old length.
Then go ahead and cut the old string, but before you pull it through,
attach the new string to one end of the old string. Use safety pins to
do this. Then slowly and gently pull the old one through from the other
end. The new one will replace the old one, and voila, you now have a new
string in place of the old. Simply detach the old one and find an
alternate use for it - if you can. - Heloise
Here’s a thought
Dear Readers: A reader responded to a column where we hinted about not
using important documents or money as bookmarks, since they could get
lost or stolen.
He said: “I’ve been financially blessed well enough to occasionally, on
purpose, leave paper money inside of a library book because I like to
imagine the thrill of being the person who finds that money.
“It’s thrilling enough to find your own money in the pants pocket of a
pair of forgotten pants, let alone finding money that is ‘finders
keepers.’ I’ll confess I’ve also used cash as my ‘message in a bottle’
and sent it out into the ocean for some lucky person to find.” -
David W., via email
Thanks for your perspective on this subject, David. This is a nice
example of “paying it forward”!
Dear Readers: Here’s an alternative to those expensive mushroom brushes:
Try using a baby hairbrush. It cleans the dirt off yet doesn’t damage
Sept. 22, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about clothing labels. A reader
wrote: “Why do clothing manufacturers persist in putting scratchy labels
in the necks of shirts and nightwear? I have two brand-new garments that
I put holes in trying to remove the uncomfortable labels!
“The least they could do is give us a fighting chance of successfully
removing the labels (without damaging our new clothes) by sewing them in
with long stitches in a contrasting color of thread. Better yet, no
label in the neck at all.
“Thanks for your great columns; I’ve been reading them for many years
and have implemented many hints. But sometimes I read a hint and think:
‘I’ve been doing that all my life! There are people who don’t know
this?’” - Judy N., Mansfield, Ohio
Dear Readers: What to do with extra mouse pads? Here are some other
possible uses for them:
As drink coasters.
Under a sewing-machine pedal to reduce slippage.
Cut into small pieces and place under table legs to prevent damage to
Place under in-house potted plants to prevent scratching or marking
Under hot casserole dishes to protect your tabletop.
Hints on battery
Dear Heloise: Thanks for the advice on how to store batteries (not in
the refrigerator). However, is there a proper way to dispose of
batteries? I’m guessing most people simply throw their flashlight or
gadget batteries into the trash can. Is that a bad thing? - Harry P.,
Harry, after a bit of research, here’s what I’d recommend, as there are
a variety of household-type batteries in any one home:
1. Everyday alkaline batteries, which are most of your household types,
can go out with the regular trash.
2. Lithium-ion batteries, like those used in cellphones and laptop
computers, also can be placed in the garbage, as long as they have been
fully discharged. If not, dispose of them at a household hazardous-waste
3. Silver-oxide batteries and button cells, normally used in watches,
calculators and hearing aids, also should be disposed of at a household
Dirty nails? No
Dear Heloise: I love to garden, so dirt under my fingernails is
inevitable, since I prefer to garden without gloves. To get the dirt out
from under my nails, if I’m outside, I will use the jet stream from my
hand-watering sprinkler head, gently pull back my finger pads and spray
directly at the tips of my nails.
If I am inside, I simply use my kitchen-sink sprayer in the same way.
Both work great in flushing out the dirt. - Janice B. in Oklahoma
Dear Heloise: Before I sew, I fill all of my sewing-machine bobbins with
the thread I’ll be using for the project and place them in an eyeglass
case that snaps shut. This way, I know where they are, and if it falls
to the ground, the case stays shut! - Georgia H. in San Antonio
you addressed this issue?
Sept. 14, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about street addresses that are
difficult to find and/or nonexistent. A reader wrote: “I do occasional
work delivering late airline luggage to their owners and have noted many
house address numbers are either nonexistent or not easily visible. Only
the home occupant and mail carriers can easily locate the house. It’s a
big deal for first responders when time matters. Home occupants might
want to drive by their home to see if their house number stands out.”
- Lance C., via email
Dear Readers: Here are other ways you can use a potato masher:
Break up ground meat when cooking.
Mash eggs when making egg salad.
Use to mix items in a round pot or bowl.
Make designs on peanut-butter cookies.
Crush fruit to make jams and jellies.
Dear Heloise: I clipped a hint from our San Antonio Express-News where
one of your readers mentioned making a large pot of soup and freezing it
before taking a trip so that they had an easy meal upon their return.
This turned out to be great hint. Before a recent trip, I did the same
thing, and it made “transitioning” back home easy. By any chance, do you
have any soup recipes that you can pass my way? I would love to build my
stash of soup recipes. Thanks! - Julie M. in San Antonio
Julie, I love to hear readers taking hints and making them their own.
Soups come in a variety of types. I have a great pamphlet called
Heloise’s Spectacular Soups that’s not only packed with many different
soup recipes, but it also has information on the different types of
soups. To order, go online to www.Heloise.com, or send $5 and a long,
self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Soups, P.O. Box
795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Who knows, your family may like a
bouillabaisse over a chowder or a goulash! - Heloise
Dear Readers: As with everything, there are proper mail procedures to
follow in the event of a death or change of address. The U.S. Postal
Service makes these recommendations:
1. When stopping or redirecting mail, file a request at the post office.
It may take up to three months for the information to be removed from
advertisers’ mailing lists.
2. If you shared an address with the deceased, you can either notify the
post office or do nothing.
3. If you have to forward a deceased person’s mail, you must file a
request at your local post office. You’ll need to have valid proof that
you’re the executor or the authorized administrator managing the
deceased’s mail before completing a change-of-address form.
Not just for turkeys
Dear Readers: Do you have plants that are difficult to water? Are they
practically out of reach or too dense for you to get water to the soil?
Pull out that turkey baster and try watering with it. Makes watering
those plants so much easier. - Heloise
Sept. 7, 2016
Dear Readers: Today’s Sound On comes from a reader complimenting a large
chain restaurant’s effort to recycle. She wrote: “I want to commend a
local restaurant for their carryout containers.
“I ordered some food to go and got it home in what I thought were
insulated foam containers. Upon further inspection, I noticed that one
of the containers was listed as ‘microwave-safe,’ and the smaller
container was not only microwave-safe but also dishwasher-safe.
“I really like the idea of reusing containers multiple times, thus
limiting the number of insulated foam containers I would contribute to
the environment. I want to thank this large chain restaurant for doing
its part to limit the use of this type of container.” - Harold W. in
Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for a pizza cutter:
1. Cutting toast.
2. Cutting waffles.
3. Slicing cookie dough.
4. Chopping up parsley
5. For anything thin requiring a clean cut.
Dear Heloise: I am experiencing something that I never used to
experience: I buy women’s socks, which usually are the size I need, or
even a little bit bigger. After a while, they tend to shrink to a
child’s size. The store takes them back, but I’m still without socks.
- Katie, via email
Katie, I’ll bet that socks too small for your feet can be uncomfortable.
I’m not sure why this is happening, but here are a few hints to
Buy socks that aren’t made of cotton, since cotton shrinks.
If you like cotton, then consider hand-washing them or washing them in
cold water. Then “hand stretch” and let them dry naturally.
If you must dry electronically, stretch them before drying, and then dry
on the coolest cycle.
Paper clips no more
Dear Heloise: I’ve a hint that I think is worth mentioning, and would
love to see if it makes it into the San Antonio Express-News: Every
morning, my husband uses a small paper cup to rinse and take his morning
“cocktail” of supplements. That’s 365 cups per year from one person
Most days I like to have a pudding or gelatin snack for a quick dessert.
I used to simply recycle the containers, but now I clean and dry them
for him to reuse during his morning routine. He actually likes them
better, because they’re sturdier and he can use them multiple times.
Thanks for all of your and your readers’ hints. I love to see where they
come from and look for better ways to do things! - Harriet K. in San
Mouthwash the toilet
Dear Readers: In a pinch, you can use an alcohol-based mouthwash to
clean your toilet bowl. Consider this: Mouthwashes are designed with
Pour 1/4 cup of mouthwash in the bowl and let sit for at least half an
hour. Then swish with your toilet brush before flushing for a sparkly
clean bowl. - Heloise