A taxing phone conversation


June 21, 2017


Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the phone bill’s added charges and taxes. - Heloise

“Dear Heloise: I recently moved into my first apartment and was shocked to discover that my phone bill, which includes a landline, my computer and cellphone, was about 25 percent to 30 percent taxes! I called the phone company and asked for an explanation of my bill, because there were things on there that I’d never heard of. The woman I spoke with didn’t seem to know what half of the charges were for, either. When I signed up for telephone service, no one told me about all these taxes and other charges. Why can’t the telephone companies tell us the truth about all these nuisance charges, and why don’t they pick up some of these expenses instead of burdening the public with them?” - Roberta G., Dayton, Ohio

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Button, button, who’s got the button? There are a number of uses for recycled buttons:

- They can be used in jewelry making to create interesting, new designs.

- Attach to the ends of drawstrings to keep from pulling through casings.

- Great for decorating picture frames, and for gift decorations.

- Instead of pebbles in a pot, try a couple of handfuls of old buttons.

- Heloise

How to clean a mattress

Dear Heloise: My sister and I have been wondering how to properly clean a mattress. We both recently bought new ones, but haven’t a clue as to how to keep them clean. - Tanya M., Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Tanya, the first thing you can do is spray a water repellent on the surface of a mattress on both sides. Wait until it is completely dry before covering it with a good-quality mattress pad to help keep out dust, dander and dust mites. After you’ve done this, try the following:

- Vacuum your mattress once a month.

- Wash the mattress pad once a month in hot water and soap to kill dust mites.

- If you spill any liquid on the mattress, soak up as much of the liquid as you can with a bath towel or paper towels. Use upholstery cleaners to shampoo out the stain left behind, but make sure your mattress is completely dry before putting the mattress pad back on the bed.

- Most mattress manufacturers say we do not have to “flip” our mattresses every six months anymore, but I still like to rotate mine every other month.

- Heloise

Feed your plants

Dear Heloise: I have an old home recipe for outside plants that works to kill bugs while feeding the plants. It’s simple and easy to use with a spray bottle that hooks up to a hose.

Mix together:

- One small can of beer - any kind

- 5 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing detergent (or use baby shampoo)

- 2 tablespoons of commercial plant food in liquid or powder form

Once this is in the spray bottle and attached to the hose, water your plants as usual. The soap kills bugs, but not plants. - Rhonda P., Lodi, Calif.

Rules for the lake house
June 15, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s SOUND OFF is about house rules at the lake:

“Dear Heloise: Three years ago, my husband and I built our retirement home on a beautiful lake, where we hoped to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle. However, our children (we have six between the two of us) and a couple of our friends tend to drop in a lot. So this year I wrote everyone a letter with the lake house rules:

“Hello to All: As much as we love all of you, we need to set down some new house rules for all of you to follow. We ask that you respect these rules and not ask us to make exceptions.

- “Please wait to be invited to our home. DO NOT drop in, even if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

- “Bring your own towels and snacks.

- “Due to my husband’s health, we need to limit our entertaining and baby-sitting to no more than a couple of days.”

- Margaret S., Kenosha

Fast Facts

Dear Heloise: I have no idea where lost socks go, but it seems my husband has several pairs that are missing their mate. This is what I do with those lonely, single socks:

- I keep one in the glove compartment of my car for covering my hand when I’m scraping the windshield in winter, or to pick up something I’d rather not touch with my bare hand.

- They make wonderful dust rags - just slip your hand inside.

- I have one in my laundry room to put loose change in when I check pockets before washing.

- I gave one to my young son to put his small plastic toys inside so they don’t get lost

- A Reader, via email


Engagement ring advice for men

Dear Heloise: I’ve been a jeweler for nearly 30 years, and I have some advice for young men who are considering surprising their girlfriend with an engagement ring:

- As lovely as it is to surprise a woman with a proposal, it might be better to let her select the ring she’ll wear for the rest of her life.

- If you two are shopping together for rings, give her a price range to select from. Limit yourself to what you can reasonably afford.

- If she would rather have a colored gem than a diamond, let her have what she wants, but stay within your budget.

- Do not bring a third or fourth person along with you. This is a private matter, and you don’t need a third opinion. It doesn’t matter what her mother or best friend thinks about her ring.

- Shop around for a style and price you both can live with after all the excitement dies down.

- Ronald P., Norman, Okla.


Wedding trivia

Dear Readers:

- The average wedding in America costs between $26,000 and $35,000!

- Almost half of millennials say they will wait to wed until after the age of 30.

- Utah has the youngest brides, with an average age of 23.5 for women and 25.6 for men.

- Washington, D.C., has the oldest brides, with an average age of 29.8 for women and 30.6 for men.

- Heloise

Late isn't great
June 7, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about people who are perpetually late. - Heloise

“Dear Heloise: Why are some people always late for everything? I have a friend who seems to think showing up on time is beyond her capabilities. She’ll say things like, ‘Time is my enemy.’ If we’re meeting for lunch, she is sure to be 20 to 40 minutes late. Several of our mutual friends have stopped inviting her to various functions for this very reason. I only hope this will give others who are never on time a chance to think about how it affects others.” - Charlotte F., Hot Springs, Ark.

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some hints for repurposing old books:

- Stack up several volumes to make a side table by a chair.

- Create a multilayered wall collage with pages from any book.

- Hollow out the inside of the pages and hide valuables in there, then place on a bookshelf.

- Cut pages into strips and glue to a lampshade for a “novel” look for your lamp.

- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I use a facial mask that is wonderful and all-natural. It works well on nearly everyone I know:

- Grind 5 tablespoons of oatmeal in a blender or food processor until it’s a coarse powder.

- Add 1 tablespoon of honey.

- Add 2 tablespoons of plain nonfat yogurt.

- Add 1 egg yolk, optional.

Mix everything together and apply to your face for 30 minutes in order to achieve best results. If you have time, lie down and relax during this treatment. Everything in this mixture is designed to brighten the skin, remove dead skin cells and nourish the skin. - Vanessa K. in Detroit

Family portraits

Dear Heloise: My ex-husband and I decided years ago that no matter what happened, we would always take a “family portrait” every year. This was for the sake of our three daughters. The girls agree that we are still a unit, and it’s nice to see how the girls have grown and how my ex and I have changed through the years. We’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I believe it’s helped keep a civil relationship between my ex-husband and myself. - Courtney J., Suffolk, Va.

Courtney, that’s a good idea, and I agree that exes should remain civil to one another for the sake of the kids and for their own peace of mind. - Heloise


Wedding tradition

Dear Heloise: In my family, we try to take something from our mother’s wedding or grandmother’s wedding and incorporate it in our wedding dress or veil. I used a handkerchief that my grandmother carried on her wedding day and had it worked into the bodice of my dress. It was my “something old.”
- Constance D., Glenrock, Wyo.

The stamp of approval
June 1, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s SOUND ON is about a U.S. Postal Service worker, Kevin Kennedy:

“Dear Heloise: We have a co-worker, Kevin Kennedy, who’s retiring with 40 years of service from the U.S. Postal Service. Kevin takes his breaks in my office and reads your column out loud so all of us in the office can hear. Kevin also has cut out some of our favorite hints and hung them on the board, and we just love your column.” - Sandy V., via email

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Ever wonder what to do with those empty, amber pill bottles you get from your pharmacy? First, remove the labels with your personal information, and wash them thoroughly. After they dry, you can use them in a number of ways:

- They’re handy to keep in your car to store change for tolls or parking garages.

- They can hold toothpicks and dental floss for those times when you can’t rush home to remove something stuck in your teeth.

- Cat toy: Place a small rock or bell inside and secure the cap with glue. The pill bottle makes enough noise to entertain a cat, and easily can roll across the floor.

- Drill a few holes in the bottom of the container, then spray a cotton ball with perfume and place in a drawer to keep everything smelling nice.

- Store salt and pepper packets for brown-bag lunches.

- Heloise

Arms fall asleep at night

Dear Heloise: I will sometimes fall asleep with my arms raised over my head, which causes my arms and hands to fall asleep. When I mentioned this to my mother, she told me to gently rock my head from side to side, and this would quickly restore feeling in my arms and hands. It works. As long as the numbness isn’t caused by something serious, it should work every time. If the numbness is prolonged or recurring, you need to see a physician. - Susan H., Kokomo, Ind.

Proofreading essay

Dear Heloise: I teach at a college level, and I’ve noticed that so many students turn in papers that haven’t been proofread, the content isn’t cohesive and spellcheck must have been turned off. I have some suggestions for your college (and high school) students to help them improve their essays:

- Use spellcheck.

- Print your essay and manually go over it slowly and carefully.

- Ask yourself if it’s easy to read and understand.

- Review the introduction - this sets the tone of your essay.

- Check each paragraph. Eliminate irrelevant words and statements. Each idea must smoothly transition to the next.

- Check the conclusion to make sure it’s polished to the best of your ability.

- Read your essay aloud. You’ll discover better ways to express an idea.

- Follow the requirements and rules of the assignment. Abide by the word count.

- Fact-check - I can’t stress this enough.

- Ann W. in Denver


Soliciting a negative reaction
May 25, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about all the airlines, from a former airline employee.
- Heloise

“Dear Heloise: I’ve worked as an airline flight attendant for two major airlines over an 11-year period.

“We love our passengers, and we strive to make them happy and comfortable. With summer vacations comes a higher volume of travelers, so I have a few suggestions for passengers who fly the airlines:

- Even though the airlines have blankets and pillows, you might want to bring a small throw and travel pillow from home. People do best when traveling with items that are familiar to them. This is especially true of children.

- It’s usually a good idea to pack a few disinfecting wipes in a plastic bag to use in the restroom and on the tray tables. During flu and cold season, this is especially important.

- Always make certain you have identification on all carry-on bags. Many bags look the same, and this will help you find yours.

- If you have special dietary needs, please let us know when you book a flight, and we’ll do all we can to ensure your needs are met.

- When asked to turn off your cellphones and other electronics, please comply. We want to make sure you have a safe and comfortable flight.

If you have any questions about your connecting flights, ask a flight attendant.”
- Diane N. in Atlanta


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: You might not play tennis, but if you have extra tennis balls around the house, here are a few suggestions for you:

- They are great for dogs to play with, especially if you throw them for your pet.

- You can massage your feet by rolling them with the bottom of your foot.

- Put in the dryer with down pillows to help them fluff.

- Hang one from the ceiling of the garage to help you gauge the distance from the wall when parking your car.

- Heloise


A white wedding?

Dear Heloise: Do first-time brides have to get married in white or ivory dresses? My mother says yes, but I’d rather wear a color, because white makes me look like a corpse.
- Tracy in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Tracy, no, you don’t have to get married in white. In fact, a lot of brides are now choosing to wear a shell pink, or a blue sash with a white dress, and some of the more daring brides are opting for red or turquoise. I’ve seen brides wear silvery gray and dusty lavender dresses, and they looked beautiful. Perhaps the best part is that those dresses can be worn again at cocktail parties or other formal occasions.
- Heloise


Did you know?

Dear Readers:

- There will be a total solar eclipse viewable in parts of North America on Aug. 21, 2017.

- A total solar eclipse can cause the temperature to drop as much as 20 degrees.

- An annular solar eclipse happens when the moon is farther away in its orbit and there is a bright ring around the moon.

- Heloise

Soliciting a negative reaction
May 19, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about asking wedding guests to fund a couple’s honeymoon:

“Dear Heloise: I received an invitation to my former college roommate’s wedding, and it gave the website where they were registered. Turns out they’re asking people to give them money for their honeymoon instead of gifts. I have to admit, I was surprised. They specified that $150 to $300 per person or couple would be an appropriate amount because they want to spend two weeks in Hawaii. I’ve never seen this sort of thing before, and I can’t say I like it, especially since they don’t have a house, an apartment or anything else that newlyweds need!” - Ava L., Meriden, Conn.


Ava, apparently asking people to financially donate to the honeymoon is something new. It’s nice to give a gift of cash at a wedding, but it’s not mandatory. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: You can do much more with pencils than just write with them:

- Erase crayon from walls painted with satin or gloss paint.

- The eraser can be used to push back cuticles.

- Use as a stem support for weaker plants.

- Use the eraser as an earring back by cutting it off and pushing it onto the earring post.

- Heloise

Let them cake

Dear Heloise: I had a pamphlet of yours with cake recipes, and I loved it! I think I made every cake recipe in the pamphlet, but unfortunately I loaned it out to a friend, who begged me to let her keep it. So, I’d like to order another one for me and one for my daughter. - Laura W., Hagerstown, Md.


Laura, thank you! My cake recipe pamphlet is one of the most requested. Just go to my website, www.Heloise.com, to order it, or send a stamped (70 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope, along with $3, to: Heloise/ Cakes, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. If any of my readers have a favorite cake recipe they’d like to share with us, please send me a copy of the recipe, especially if there’s a story attached to it. - Heloise

Food Facts

Dear Readers:

- Remember to cover your butter so it doesn’t absorb refrigerator odors.

- Butter should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than two weeks. If you need to keep it longer, freeze it.

- Anything labeled “tropical oils” usually is coconut or palm oil.

- The majority of nondairy creamers are made from coconut oil, which makes them high in saturated fats.

- Heloise

Plant drainage

Dear Heloise: I always heard that you should put stones in the bottom of pots before plants go in so that the plants have better drainage. However, I live in an apartment and didn’t have any rocks or small stones, so I used plastic foam and layered the bottom of my potted plants. There’s also less weight on my patio this way, and the drainage is just as good as with stones. - Frances B., Tyler, Texas

Soliciting a negative reaction
May 10, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about companies that solicit donations. - Heloise

“Dear Heloise: I get tired of all the pleas for contributions and the companies that sell your information to other companies. They spend all that money on staff, stamps, envelopes and address labels. Why not use the money for the charities instead of begging me for money?

“I finally stopped them, even the ones I liked. Just write ‘Do Not Solicit’ on the bill or request for funds and send it back to them. I kept a list so I’d be sure there were no repeats. It worked.”
- JoAnn A., Booneville, Miss.


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Lemons not only smell fresh, but have the added advantage of multiple uses:

- Rub half a lemon over a chopping block to remove odors and kill bacteria.

- Sprinkle lemon juice over foods that tend to turn brown after they’re sliced, such as apples and avocados.

- Remove stains from plastic.

- Whiten fingernails that have turned yellow from nail polish.

- Heloise

Compost no-nos

Dear Heloise: We just bought our first home on an acre of land, and I want to compost materials for the vegetable garden we’ve started. I know there are things I shouldn’t compost, but what are they?
 - Molly K., Brookfield, Wis.


Molly, yes, there are several things that shouldn’t go into your compost:

- No cat or dog droppings. These might contain parasites.

- Coal or charcoal.

- Anything that has fungus, such as fungus on plants.

- Fish, cheese or meat leftovers. These attract raccoons, opossums and other critters.

- Oil and grease.

- No bones. Like coal and charcoal, these take a very long time to decompose.

So glad to know you’re starting a compost pile. This will enrich your soil with nutrients the natural way.
- Heloise


Old toothbrushes

Dear Heloise: As a recent graduate of dental school, I can tell you there are many uses for old toothbrushes. After replacing your toothbrushes, try using them for:

- Cleaning tile grout with baking soda. A toothbrush gets into the grout lines.

- Applying hair dye to the roots is easier with an old toothbrush.

- Use the handle to poke a hole in the ground, then drop in a seed or seeds and use the brush part to cover the hole with dirt.

- It’s wonderful for cleaning under your fingernails.

- Use it to brush your eyebrows. A cheap child’s toothbrush works well for this idea.

- Lana V., Fresno, Calif.

What’s in a makeup’s name?
May 4, 2017

“Dear Heloise: Why do makeup and hair-dye companies try to be trendy with the names they give to colors? I was looking for eyeliner in a dark-purple shade, but had no idea what shade Mystic Night or Tahitian Seas was. What’s wrong with just saying ‘purple’ or ‘dark purple’ on the packaging? The tiny square on the package, which was supposed to be a representation of the color, looked identical to three other eyeliners by the same manufacturer. It’s the same with lipsticks. It’s impossible to tell the difference between French Rose, Honeysuckle Pink and Hawaiian Sunset. Turns out, they’re actually red. Women just want to know what they are buying with names that represent the actual color, because the color charts are never correct.” - Caroline B., Walla Walla, Wash.

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: If you enjoy frozen dinners in which food is steamed in a slotted tray set inside another tray for the liquid, here are some things you can do to reuse the plastic trays:

- Use the slotted tray as a drying station for sponges and bars of soap in the bathroom.

- Take a slotted tray to the beach and let kids sift sand with it.

- Use to wash shells and rocks in when your kids bring home their little treasures.

- The top and bottom trays, which don’t have slots, can be used as pet-food dishes while traveling. They’re small and lightweight, and fit in the glove box.

- Both the top and bottom trays are great as seed starters once they’re filled with soil.

- Heloise

Squeaking shoes

Dear Heloise: We read your column in the Orange County (Calif.) Register. Please give me an idea of what to do with squeaky shoes. They are not old. - Victoria Q., Irvine, Calif.

Victoria, sprinkle some talcum powder, cornstarch or a baby powder under the shoe liner, if it is removable. If you don’t have any powder, then try a dryer sheet under the insole, if it’s removable. You also can try wearing socks with the shoes that squeak. The moisture from your feet perspiring may be the cause of the squeaking. Leather shoes might make noises if the leather has dried out. Try using a leather conditioner, left on the shoes overnight to soak into the shoes. As a last resort, you can take them to a shoe-repair shop for help. - Heloise

An old wives’ tale

Dear Readers: The bride must walk into her new home by the front door, and must not trip or fall. This is how the tradition of carrying the bride over the threshold started. It was said to be a good omen if the bride entered her home for the first time as a wife without stumbling. - Heloise

Mind over mattress?
April 28, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about mattresses:

“Dear Heloise: Why are mattresses in this age of space technology not made stain- and water-repellent? Why aren’t mattresses made in colors that don’t show the dirt, and why aren’t there handles on the sides of mattresses to make flipping them much easier? Seems to me there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
- Janice M., Waterbury, Conn.

Janice, I’m with you on this! Yes, they do sell mattress protectors, which you buy, then put OVER the mattress. Here is the Heloise Hint: Buy a fabric/ leather protector spray and use this on your mattress. It’s best to do several light coats, rather than one heavy.

The handles are supposed to be used when placing the mattress on the box spring, not really to “flip” the mattress. However, most of us do use them when it’s time to flip or rotate the mattress. Also, today MOST new mattresses have “pillow” tops, and unless the pillow is on both top and bottom, you can’t flip it!

Love your idea of colored mattresses! I’d want purple! - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Uses for leftover wallpaper:

- Coordinate frame mats with room decor.

- Line shelves in the kitchen.

- Use as wrapping paper.

- Cut to fit for a border trim for walls.

- Heloise

Plant identifier

Dear Heloise: Here is how I make a marker for the seeds I’ve planted: I go to the dollar store and purchase inexpensive wooden spoons with long handles. Then I paint the front and back of the bowl part of the spoon, plus 2 or 3 inches down the handle from the bowl. When it dries, I write the name of the seeds I’m planting with a waterproof marker on the front of the spoon.

These are cheap and nice-looking plant markers. - Joyce M., Cape Coral, Fla.

An old wives’ tale

Dear Readers: “If you sweep dust out the door after dark, it will bring a handsome stranger to visit.”

REALLY? How about a handsome stranger with lots of money! - Heloise

Clean solar panel

Dear Heloise: My husband and I are big advocates of renewable energy, so we had solar panels installed. While I love using solar energy, I don’t know how to clean the panels. - Sandy, Mesa, Ariz.

Sandy, good for you, and in Mesa, Ariz., there is a lot of sun, so the solar panels can really provide you with energy. The easiest way to clean them is to just rinse them off with the hose. If they have too much dirt/debris on them, try rinsing well, then cleaning with a MICROFIBER CLOTH OR SQUEEGEE, along with some mild soap and water. Squirt with the hose, and you’re done! - Heloise

P.S. Speaking of renewable energy and using MOTHER NATURE to the fullest, wait until it rains, and then squeegee the panels!

Garage treats

Dear Heloise: When it’s time to clean out the garage, I put an ice chest filled with soft drinks, water and some bagged fruit and veggies out there. No excuse to leave! - Tired but Happy, via email

Service with sarcasm
April 18, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about calling service people:

“Dear Heloise: I recently called for tech support at a computer company and got the worst service I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve had service people who were sarcastic or rude. The background noise was so loud, with people laughing and shouting, that I couldn’t hear the young man who was talking. When I said I couldn’t hear him because of the noise, he hung up on me.”
- Sarah J., Hampton, Va.

Sarah, this is a common complaint from my readers. One thing I’ve done: If the phone agent is NOT being helpful, I say “goodbye” and call back to get another agent. Readers, what’s your “call” (bad pun intended!) on this dilemma? - Heloise


Dear Heloise: I think I must live in the mosquito capital of America. I can’t set foot outside the door without being bitten several times. Do you have a recipe to kill these pesky critters?
- Belinda F., Brownsville, Texas

Belinda, I sure do! Give this simple hint a try:

1 cup hot water

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 2-liter bottle

1 tablespoon active yeast

Cut the plastic bottle in half. Mix the brown sugar with the hot water and allow to cool. When the mixture is cooled, pour it into the bottom half of the bottle.

Add the yeast - no need to mix. Place the funnel part of the bottle upside down into the bottom half of the bottle and tape them together. Leave the top uncovered.

Change the solution every week or so, or when you see lots of dead mosquitoes in the liquid.

Buzz, buzz no more! - Heloise

P.S. The amounts are just an estimate; don’t worry about measuring exactly.

Wedding gifts

Dear Heloise: I recently went to a wedding and did not know what to get the couple, who have everything after living together. I gave them an envelope with cash. After the wedding, the mother of the bride hinted that she didn’t think I’d given them enough to cover the expense of my dinner. I’m retired, my income is limited, and I thought I gave the couple a substantial amount. What is the correct amount to give at a wedding? - Lynnette G., New London, Conn.

Lynnette, there is no real rule, per se. In the old days, many thought a cash gift or the price of the gift should cover your food and drink. However, that has changed over time. Give what you can afford, and don’t feel guilty. Guests are invited to help the happy couple celebrate the wedding, not to pay for it. - Heloise

Ice-cream-cone plants

Dear Heloise: I like to start my garden a little early, so I start the seeds in an ice-cream cone that has a flat bottom. When the seedlings are ready to be planted, I place the plant, still in the ice-cream cone, into the ground. The cone is biodegradable! - Vivian M., Greensboro, N.C.

Free with a fee?
April 13, 2017

Dear Readers: This week’s Sound Off is about mail-order companies:

“Dear Heloise: My complaint is with mail-order companies that have a free-shipping-and-handling promotion and then have the nerve to charge a processing fee (usually $2.95) in case the order gets lost in transit. This fee supposedly will expedite the search. Chances are it won’t get lost, so they make an extra $2.95 per order for nothing! What a rip-off!” - Gloria R., Highland, Ind.

Gloria, the handling fee isn’t “in case it gets lost.” Companies need to pay someone to package the product and get it sent out. There’s paperwork, such as invoices that need to be filed for tracking purposes, and more. It seems to me that $2.95 is a reasonable amount to request for all of that. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some warm-weather hints:

- Put deodorant on a mosquito bite to stop the itching.

- Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth to stop “brain freeze.”

- Put your nail polish in the refrigerator for 15 minutes before applying. It goes on smoother.

- Flattened pillow? Place the pillow in the sun for 40 minutes. The sun will absorb moisture and plump up your pillow.

- Heloise

Fruit cups

Dear Heloise: I think I found a storage solution that your readers might enjoy: I buy fruit cups for my kids, and I found that stacking them top to top saves a little more space in my refrigerator.
- Liz D. in Philadelphia

Space-saving ideas

Dear Heloise: When my husband and I travel, we try to pack so that we can save space in our luggage using the following ideas:

- Place shoes inside of a shower cap.

- Put shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant in a plastic bag, and then put that plastic bag in the pocket of a garment. Be sure to seal the bag shut! - Gina R., Tampa, Fla.


Recycled packing peanuts

Dear Heloise: I recycle my foam and packing peanuts by placing them in a large garbage bag and taking it to a shipping store. They always seem happy to get them. - Patricia Q., Bellevue, Neb.


Bobbin storage

Dear Heloise: I’ve found that if you store wound bobbins in weekly pillboxes, they won’t become lost or tangled up. - Ronna S., Virginia Beach, Va.

Ronna, that’s a good idea! Here are a few more sewing ideas:

- Binder clips can be extra hands. They’re perfect for holding your binding in place, or a stack of quilting squares.

- Before working with lace fabric, wash it in mild, soapy water, rinse and let it air-dry. If it loses its stiffness, use spray starch and iron on low to medium heat.

- If you are trying to sew a straight line, don’t watch the needle. Train yourself to watch the guide instead to achieve that straight line.

- Heloise

Wedding-gown price not so nice!
April 5, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about costly wedding gowns:

“Dear Heloise: Why are so many wedding gowns so expensive? I went with my daughter to shop for her gown and was completely shocked. The average gown we looked at was between $3,000 and $6,000! While the dresses were beautiful, they will only be worn one time. These prices are way out of our budget.” - Mother of the Bride, via email

Dear Mother of the Bride: Wedding gowns can be very expensive! It all depends on the designer, the material, how much beading, etc. There are, however, ways to reduce your outlay and hopefully stay within budget. Do visit several stores or check their websites. Many stores have sales on gowns, especially if the dress is considered last season’s fashion. A dressmaker can add embellishments or make a slight adjustment to make the gown more personal.

Don’t discount (pun intended) a previously worn dress! There are a multitude of websites that specialize in wedding gowns. Check out resale shops in more affluent areas.

From a bride who wore her friend Judy’s dress. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Uses for 3- to 4-ounce plastic food containers:

- Quick measure for ingredients.

- Glue several together to hold jewelry or safety pins.

- A snacking cup for small children.

- A starter cup for seeds.

- As a scoop for pet food, birdseed, etc.

- Heloise

IRS phone scam

Dear Heloise: There have been phone scams going on from people who claim to be with the IRS. They give you a phone number to call or demand that you pay money right then. Please let your readers know that it’s a scam. - Janie S., Royal Oak, Mich.

You are right, and I’m happy to pass along this valuable and important warning.

Readers, the Internal Revenue Service DOES NOT CALL YOU! The first contact is a letter via the U.S. Postal Service. However, the exception might be if you are involved in an ongoing criminal proceeding.

DON’T get scammed. DO be smart and savvy! - Heloise

Don’t use vinegar on this

Dear Readers: My beloved vinegar is a NO-NO for:

- Granite and marble countertops.

- Natural stone tiles.

- Cleaning the inside of an iron.

However, there are a kazillion other great uses for vinegar - too many to print in this column, but I’ve put as many as possible in my vinegar pamphlet. Visit www.Heloise.com to order one, or send a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope, along with $5, to Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Remember, vinegar is a wonderful cleaning and cooking agent, but as noted above, there are some NO-NOs. - Heloise

Cut your sponge

Dear Heloise: My favorite hint I’d like to share is to cut your kitchen sponge in half. We have a center island with a sink that is seldom used. So, the sponge I keep on the side does not need to be full size. I cut one in half and place it there. It does just what needs to be done. Saves money, too.
- Sammie in Birmingham, Ala.

Pets shouldn’t be abandoned
March 29, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about abandoned pets:

“Dear Heloise: Why do people abandon pets on the street or in rural fields to starve or get hit by a car? That’s cruel! I get angry when someone says, ‘Well, it’s just a dog or just a cat.’ If people have a pet they can’t keep or don’t want, they should contact the various pet shelters in their area, or search for a friend or relative who’ll give the pet a good home.” - Roberta M., Kenner, La.

Roberta, I agree! Where I live, people “dump” animals, thinking that someone will take care of the dog. Yes, I’ve taken in two dogs that “just showed up,” and given them both good homes: John Doe, a beautiful golden retriever who lived to the ripe old age of almost 11; then Sheba, a keeshond who gave us much love, even when she snuck into the house and slept on the couch, then snuck out the doggy door. - Heloise

No drips or splatters

Dear Heloise: Here is how I keep drips and splatters of paint off doorknobs and hardware when I’m painting walls and woodwork: I simply wrap them in aluminum foil. It molds perfectly to the shape of anything it covers. - Ella J., Troy, Mich.

Ella, that’s a great idea! Here are a few more uses for aluminum foil:

Baked-on food, in a glass pan: Use dishwashing liquid and a ball of foil in place of steel wool.

Wrap foil around young trees, especially near the root area, to protect them.

Shampooing your carpets? Be sure to wrap the legs of your furniture in foil to keep dampness and splattered shampoo off them. - Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: With beach and bathing-suit season almost here, most folks want to shed a few winter pounds. How many calories your body burns depends on a variety of factors, such as your age, height and sex, how much real muscle you have and how active you are. With this in mind, here are a few reminders of how many calories you may or may NOT burn off:

- Aerobics for one hour: burns about 533 calories.

- Running for 30 minutes at 12-minute miles: burns 303 calories.

- Slow walking for an hour: burns 204 calories.

So before you reach for that second doughnut or cookie, think how long it might take you to burn it off!
- Heloise


Pet hints

Dear Readers: With summer coming, many parts of the country will be experiencing extreme hot weather. Here are a few hints to keep in mind if you own furry pets:

- Always have fresh water available.

- If you keep them outside, place food and water in a shady spot.

- Bring them inside on extremely hot or cold days, if you can.

- Brush their coat while checking for fleas and ticks.

- Heloise


Water at hand

Dear Heloise: When I grill food, I keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby. It comes in handy if there is a minor flare-up. - George S., via email

Customer calls out employees
March 22, 2017

Dear Heloise: My Sound Off: Store employees so engrossed in conversations with each other and/or on cellphones that they seemingly don't have time to wait on me!

I understand that employees are friends, and a parent may have kids calling after school and such, but employees should focus on the customer. I'm standing there waiting to pay at a counter, or need help with a question. Thanks for your time. - Jim Y. in St. Louis


Jim, that's an often-voiced complaint. An emergency is one thing, but chitchat on a cellphone in FRONT of a customer is just plain bad business. Readers? Business owners? What do you have to say? Keeping customers is a main goal of business. - Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for lemons:

- Run lemon peels through the garbage disposal to freshen it.

- Spray lemon juice to kill weeds in the garden.

- Use dried lemon peel to spice up tea.

- Rub on hands to eliminate onion odors.

- Heloise


Paint project

Dear Heloise: I want to paint my guest bedroom, but determining the actual color to use is difficult.

The light varies throughout the day, and this affects how the color “reads” on the wall. I painted a white board the color I want to use, put it on the wall and checked it throughout the day. Still can't decide, but I have narrowed it down to two colors. - J.S. in San Diego

Play clay

Dear Heloise: Help! My young nieces are coming to visit. You had a recipe for modeling clay that we can make at home - please repeat it! - Sonya in Alabama

Sonya, happy to, and it's soooo easy! Here is the recipe:

2 cups baking soda

1 cup cornstarch

1 1/4 cups water

Mix the cornstarch and baking soda in a saucepan, then add the water. Cook over MEDIUM heat, stirring constantly, until blended. Empty onto a plate and cover with a damp cloth until cool. Knead until smooth, then break into sections. You can add a drop or two of food coloring for fun. Store unused clay in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Baking soda is a must-have around the house. I've compiled a collection of my favorite hints and uses for baking soda in a handy pamphlet. To receive one, visit my website, www.Heloise.com, to order, or send a long, stamped (70 cents), business-size envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/ Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Before putting new cat litter down, sprinkle a little baking soda in the pan to help keep it fresh. Cats don't like change, so if Kitty stops using the box, dump the soda! - Heloise


Safety hint

Dear Heloise: When my young grandchildren come to visit, I take a bath towel and put it over the top of each door in the house. The door won't close all the way. They can't get stuck in a room, and no smashed fingers by mistake. - Helen B., Jackson, Miss.

Listen closely, callers!
March 16, 2017

Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is from Ida and her co-workers:

“Dear Heloise: I work in an office, and we have several phone lines. We answer ‘XYZ office.’ Then they ask: ‘Where is this? Who is this?’ and other questions. We respond, ‘XYZ office,’ and they again state: ‘Are you sure?’ Yes, we are sure. Please ask your readers to listen when a person on the other end answers.
- Ida, via email

Oh, Ida! Heloise Central (my office and staff) feels your pain! We answer only “Hello,” and oh, my! “Is this the Dr. ABC office? When do you open? When do you close?” One day I'm going to say, “Yes, 3 a.m. and never!” - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for sponges:

- Moisten and wipe to remove lint from clothing.

- Freeze and use as a compress.

- Carefully remove a jagged, broken light bulb from a base.

- Put under a pot when scouring to prevent the sink from scratching.

- Cut new sponges into fun shapes for kids’ blocks.

- Heloise


Wedding favors

Dear Heloise: For my daughter's wedding, we used one of your hints for favors.

I bought very nice, STURDY clear plastic spoons, and placed two chocolate-kiss candies inside each spoon. We then wrapped them with nylon net in the bridal colors, tied with a pretty white ribbon, and attached some name cards for the couple.

These really saved us a lot of money, as we were doing this on a budget. - May L., Arlington, Va.


Gift- and plastic-bag use

Hello, Heloise: I considered getting some large gift bags for gifts. I then changed my mind, considering the cost, and decided to give the gifts in a reusable grocery bag. Just before departing for the store, I glanced at your column in the Orange County (Calif.) Register and was surprised to see that was your hint for the day!

Plastic-bag reuse: It doesn't rain very often in Southern California, so we natives are less experienced in surviving the wet stuff. On a previous occasion, I had stuffed a few plastic newspaper sleeves into the pocket of my raincoat. Today when I was out, I found them to be immensely helpful in carrying my fast food from the restaurant. - Julie in Mission Viejo, Calif.



Dear Readers: Houseplants can add a lot to a small or large space. A cheap way to get “NEW” plants is from cuttings from the ones you already have. Many will start in water (a little plant food) and don't take much care. Some such ivy will GROW in water, not soil.

Sometimes I add a couple of drops of green or blue food coloring, or mix them to make ... turquoise! The effect is quite nice and hides the water lines if I use a clear jar or an old vase. - Heloise


Packing pages

Dear Heloise: If you are out of packing peanuts, ball up pages from a magazine, and stuff the box well!
- Sally M., via email

Buy one, don’t want one free
March 8, 2017

Dear Heloise: I have a Sound Off: A lot of coupons are “buy one, get one free,” and sometimes I cannot use two items of the same thing. I am a senior citizen and need to save money, and this makes it hard for many of us to use coupons.

Also, the expiration dates are too small - make them bigger! - A Senior in Indiana

Dear Senior: Even if you can’t use the second item, go ahead and buy it. You can save up a bagful and donate to a shelter or give to a neighbor or friend.

And your “older” eyesight is NOT the problem! That print is small because they must print all the legal disclaimers on a small coupon! - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for peanut butter jars:

- Store small items in one (hair ties, twist-ties, nails).

- As a disposable drinking glass when traveling.

- As a liquid measuring cup.

- Perfect to store a cut onion in.

And speaking of peanut butter jars, here’s a reader’s hint for cleaning them:

“Dear Heloise: I scrape out peanut butter with a spatula, then fill the jar with water. Add several squirts of dishwashing liquid. Put on the lid and shake the jar. Let sit, and shake several times a day. This usually works overnight.” - Sharyn C., via email

The plastic peanut butter jars are wonderful for all sorts of projects! - Heloise

Letter of laughter

Dear Heloise: I enjoy your column in the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald. Here’s some advice from an old friend:

When you have only short notice of company coming and things are not up to par, take some fresh shirts out of the closet, display them on hangers and apologize for not having put the ironing away yet.

This creates the illusion that you spent so much time ironing, you didn’t have time to clean the house!
- Nancy M., Omaha, Neb.

Oh yes, and if you can, pull out the vacuum cleaner and leave it in a prominent place to be seen. - Heloise


White-ring stains

Dear Heloise: To minimize white rings on wood furniture, use white toothpaste (nongel) and baking soda. Mix the two together and rub gently on the stain, noting that it can take time for the mark to disappear. Wax the piece when the mark has been removed. - Erma in Arizona

No cut fingers

Dear Heloise: I learned this hint the hard way! I reached into a drawer where I store plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc., and cut my finger pretty badly on the aluminum-foil box. Tell your readers that it is so easy to just turn the cutting side down! - Peggy in The Villages, Fla.

Newspaper has a peel

Dear Heloise: Here is a hint I learned from my cousin Mat: When you are going to be peeling a lot of potatoes, shrimp or other messy foods, use sheets of newspaper to hold the mess. Saves money on paper towels. - M. in Fort Worth, Texas

Do store brands measure up?
March 2, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound On is about store-brand products:

“Dear Heloise: I buy store-brand products and save money on our grocery bill. My friend said that he won’t buy a store ‘no name’ brand because he thinks they are just not as good as the national brand. What do you think?” - N.M.I., via email


I’m with you! Many times the store brand and the national brand have the same quality, and the savings can amount to quite a bit over time.

Do the HELOISE TEST: Buy one of each (store and national brand), then open both at the same time. Most times, you will find that they are the same or almost the same, or it does not really matter. If you are not happy with the store brand, take it back, and the retailer will refund your money. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Hints to use old hardcover books:

- Stack several and display a plant.

- Use to elevate a computer screen.

- Hold down tablecloths outdoors.

- A booster seat for children.

- Heloise


Moldy cheese

Dear Heloise: We use a lot of different types of cheese, but it seems to go moldy before we can finish it all. Help! - J.Y., via email

Help is here! The key is to wrap the cheese tightly in plastic wrap, then put into a zipper-top bag. Keeping air out helps prevent cheese from getting moldy. This is particularly important with soft cheeses.

For hard cheese, such as cheddar or Swiss, dampen a paper towel with JUST a splash of vinegar, wrap the cheese in the towel, then cover with plastic wrap and put it into a plastic bag. Vinegar does kill and prevent most molds from growing, and it won’t hurt the cheese. Who knew vinegar could be used for so many things? That is one hint, and there are more in my vinegar pamphlet. Visit my website, www.Heloise.com, to order the pamphlet, or send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Storing cheese this way shouldn’t affect its taste. If you buy different cheeses, buy the smallest size you can to be sure it’s to your liking. - Heloise


Wash or dry-clean?

Dear Heloise: I have a red, white and blue bedspread. The label reads “dry clean only.” Can I launder it without it fading? - Jenny in Omaha, Neb.

Jenny, if the label says “dry clean only” and you care about the spread, you should indeed do as instructed. If the tag says “dry clean,” you MAY be able to wash it without harm. Test a small red spot with cold water on a cotton swab. See red? Don’t wash the spread! - Heloise


First wash

Dear Heloise: My favorite hint is to keep a medium-size bowl with water and some detergent in the second sink while I’m cooking. I can pre-wash small items right away without having to turn on the water.
- Tally A., Lubbock, Texas

Keep tabs on this softy
Feb. 23, 2017

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound On is about pull tabs on containers: “I want to thank the manufacturers that are using a new, redesigned ‘soft’ pull tab to seal containers. The hard metal one is pretty easy to pop open, but pulling it back and off the container can be a chore.

“I was amazed how much easier this seal was to pull off the container.

“I also would think that these tabs are much more environmentally friendly than the harder metal ones.”
- Gerald T. in New York

I’m with you 1,000 percent! Sometimes I have moved that top back and forth, back and forth, and the darn thing still won’t come off! Then I have to pour the soup or whatever out with it still attached. Yep, the tin soft cover takes up much less space in the recycle bin and landfills. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Hints for things you can use to store small items:

- pill bottles

- small breath-mint tins

- plastic film canisters (if you can still find these!)

- small, plastic chocolate-candy containers

- small jars like spice, mushroom or pimento.

- Heloise

Commercial-time use

Dear Heloise: Here are a few things I do while watching television when the commercials come on. I try to move around or do a few quick chores:

- Stand up and march in place or walk around.

- Complete a series of arm, body or leg exercises for each commercial.

- Dust end tables and the bookshelf.

- Sort clean laundry to fold or hang up.

- Vacuum one area of the den very thoroughly.

Bottom line is I try to be active during commercials, not just stay like a lump on the couch. Our den stays pretty clean, and it’s one less room I need to worry about. - Mary L., Bastrop, Texas

Love it! I call this “TVCT,” or television cleaning time! It’s amazing how loooong some commercial breaks can be, especially if watching a cable network!

I can get a lot done just watching one movie! Dust, sort newspapers and magazines, vacuum the upholstery and drapes, pop into the kitchen and empty the dishwasher or load it, or pick up the dogs’ food bowls and clean them. - Heloise

Moisture-absorbing packs

Dear Readers: Don’t throw out the silica-gel packs that are in products like shoes, medicine bottles or anything else where moisture needs to be absorbed.

Use them near items that can be ruined by moisture. Place them in boxes holding photos or old letters.

HELOISE NOTE: If you save them, be sure to place them in a sealed container and out of reach of “tiny” hands or pets. - Heloise


Freezing soup

Dear Heloise: Freeze small portions of soup in muffin tins. Place a freezer bag in a tin, then pour a serving in each bag and freeze. Once frozen, pull the soup out and store the frozen bags. Saves space.
- Betty T., via email









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