Is mow-and-blow wasteful?


July 27, 2016


Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about how lawns are mowed: “My complaint is about people who mow their lawn and blow all the grass and mowed garbage all over the sidewalks and out into the street.

“All this waste goes down the street and pollutes our water supply by going down our water drain. It also blocks the grates, which blocks drainage and causes large puddles. 

“Why not sweep or blow the clippings back onto the grass to help protect it from the sun?”
- A Reader, Syracuse, N.Y.


Dear Reader: This is a discussion all over the country. Many areas say not to bag it - mulch it and leave it on the lawn. Others say bag it! You are right that it’s a shame and a waste to have it go down the water drain and clog the grates, as well as cause other problems. Readers? Comments? - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Veronica asked, “Do you have any suggestions for how to repurpose CD cases?” Yes!

- Glue some together to make a planter, desk organizer or napkin holder. Add pictures or artwork to personalize.

- Use as changeable picture frames.

- Glue corkboard squares to them and use as coasters.

- As a recipe holder.

- Create a large wall mural, placing parts of the whole mural in each.

- Heloise


Bookmark Dilemma

Dear Heloise: Please remind your readers to use caution when choosing how they will “bookmark” the pages of a book. As a librarian, I’ve found credit-card receipts, bills, invoices, doctor’s papers, checks and even money in books.

Our library makes an effort to track down the owner. If readers don’t have a bookmark, cut the corner off a used envelope and use that on the corner of the page they wish to come back to. - Trey P., via email


Trey, thanks for the reminder! It’s amazing what we use as bookmarks. I just found one (in my book) that was a boarding pass from a trip to Greece in 1998! Fond memories. - Heloise


Graduates of 2016

Dear Heloise: As graduation approached, we found ourselves with a few announcements. We couldn’t attend all, but we sent cards with a monetary gift.

We sent a check in the amount of their graduation year. So, this year, graduates got a check for $20.16. It wasn’t much, but it was something. With a fixed income, this was doable! - Beatrice S. in Pennsylvania


Beatrice, great hint! A little math and money! Do add a note saying, “$20.16 for the grad of 2016” so they get the point. - Heloise

Foam trays

Dear Heloise: I save foam trays and store them after thoroughly cleaning and drying. I use them when I mail photos or documents I don’t want bent or ruined.

I take two trays and cut them slightly smaller than the envelope. I place the pictures between the trays and slide into the envelope. No need to purchase expensive padded envelopes. - Erin B. in Ohio

Too big to see
July 20, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the size of print on frozen-food packages. The reader wrote: “I buy my meat in bulk at a warehouse store, and my complaint is about the size of the printing on the packaging. It’s so large that I can’t inspect the meat.” - Laura D., via email.

Hey Laura, a common complaint. If there is a butcher available, you can always ask them to unwrap it for you. Or why not find out the store’s policy, and you may be able to ask for a particular cut. As stated before in this column, if you are unhappy when you open the package at home, take it back! Do keep your receipt to show them. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for napkin rings:

- Around small candles for decorations.

- Slide onto a scarf as a decoration.

- Attach a hanger and use as an ornament or decoration.

- Slip around appliance cords to keep them organized.

- To hold a small bouquet of flowers.

- Heloise

Bread bags in restrooms

Dear Heloise: I recently read about the different uses for bread bags, and I have one of my own. I travel with small children, and public restrooms are necessary.

Before they sit, I insert each arm of the toilet seat into a bread bag. That way, if they touch the seat, they touch the bread bag instead.

When finished, I just grab the wrappers by the end and put in the trash. For children, it’s much more sanitary than toilet paper on the seat. - Roslyn in Savannah, Ga.

Teddy-bear bath

Dear Heloise: My daughter has a favorite teddy bear that desperately needs washing. I thought about sticking it in the washer on the gentle cycle, but thought I’d check with you first about the actual process and type of detergent I should use.

Thanks for your hints. As a single dad, I appreciate them. - Christopher in New York


You’re on the right track, Christopher. Use the detergent you normally use, but don’t overdo it! Less is more. Put the teddy bear in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase (close with safety pins), and wash alone, with no other items. Use a second rinse, then into the dryer. In this case (and with most laundry), it’s better to use a lower heat setting and a longer time period than high heat for a short time. Give the bear and your daughter a big hug. - Heloise

Refrigerator cleanout

Dear Heloise: I try to clean out my refrigerator the night before or the morning of trash day. This way, it doesn’t linger long in the trash can and become stinky, which then attracts neighborhood varmints!

If some things need to be thrown out before trash day, I’ll combine it all into one large resealable bag and freeze it until trash day. I just need to remember that I have frozen food to throw out on trash day!
- Veronica G. in Colorado

He’s off the market!
July 13, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off made me chuckle! It comes from a woman whose fiancé proposed, and now everyone knows she’s “off the market”! She wrote: “Recently, my boyfriend proposed, and I lovingly accepted. I now sport an engagement ring, while he sports nothing!

“It starts to become a problem when we’re out in public and women bat their eyes or stare longer than normal! He seems not to notice, BUT I DO!

“Even my friends who have committed partners each sport some kind of ring that lets the world know they are ‘off the market’! So, in that light, I purchased a ring for him to wear until we actually exchange vows.

“Call me crazy; I don’t care! He’s my man, and HE’S OFF-LIMITS!” - Ashley R., Austin, Texas

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some things to take a picture of and save on your phone:

1. Mileage.

2. Appointment cards.

3. Business cards.

4. Class worksheets so a tutor can review.

5. Repair problems on a vehicle or in the home.

- Heloise


Roast beef marinade

Dear Heloise: I’m looking for a really good marinade for roast beef, and I thought you might be able to help. Love your column in the San Antonio Express-News. - Thomas W., via email

Thomas, to marinate 3-5 pounds of roast beef, try this recipe that my mother brought back from China in 1959. It was an all-time favorite back then, and I think you’ll see why:

- 3-5 pounds roast beef

- Garlic and/or onion slivers

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

Cut slits through the roast beef and place the slivers in the slits. Put the meat in a bowl and slowly pour the vinegar over the slits. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. When ready to cook, pour off the vinegar before placing the meat in a heavy pot. This recipe also calls for cooking it in brewed coffee! If you’re interested in the complete recipe, I have a pamphlet titled Heloise’s Main Dishes and More. To get a copy, just send $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Main Dishes, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. You also can order on my website, Many of the dishes are my mother’s favorite tried-and-true recipes that have stood the test of time. - Heloise


The versatile clothespin

Dear Heloise: Along with other useful items in my purse, I carry a few clothespins. They can be used for just about anything that needs sealing, covering or closing.

I attach one to my grocery cart and use it to hold my grocery list, and another one to hold the coupons that I will use at checkout. - Gracie C., via email


Less ouch

Dear Heloise: I’ve found an easy way to lessen the “ouch” factor when removing adhesive bandages: Just rub baby oil on it first. That loosens the “stick,” and makes it a lot less painful. - Jenna U., via email

Pills by the picture
July 6, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is a comment in response to a column about taking pictures of medications to show physicians. A reader wrote: “Bringing the actual pill bottles can give valuable information to the health-care provider.

“1. Is it being refilled in a timely manner?

“2. Are the pills being taken accurately?

“3. Do the pills in the bottle match the prescription?

“4. Are the pills current or discontinued?

“If a senior has difficulty self-medicating, checking the actual pill bottles would reveal more than a picture would.” - A Nurse-Daughter, Council Bluffs, Iowa

A good point, and, especially coming from you, a nurse, one to be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, with many seniors taking multiple medications, it’s a lot to check. Ask the physician or health-care professional which they would prefer. - Heloise

P.S.: When in doubt, check it out! Don’t guess about medications.

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for journals:

- Keep favorite recipes.

- Document travel information.

- Track goings-on in your garden.

- As an art journal to sketch in.

- Tape or glue miscellaneous mementos with date and time.

- Heloise


Never too old!

Dear Heloise: Every year, I try to do or learn something that I’ve not done before. Craft stores offer a variety of classes. I picked up a brochure of classes, and boy, was there a lot to choose from! I took a beginning crochet class and loved the one-on-one attention I received. The verdict on whether I can crochet is still out!

I plan to go back and pick up other classes and engage that neglected part of my brain! - Terri L., via email

Terri, stepping out to try something new is good! Go online to the store’s website. Click the “Classes” tab to see what’s offered. You can even sign up for classes, too. Good luck! - Heloise


Another use for beer carriers

Dear Heloise: I have a hint for reusing those beer-bottle carriers. We use them to bring in water bottles from the fridge in the garage, and then take the empties to our reusable bags in the garage to take to the recycling center.

I enjoy reading your column in the Ventura County (Calif.) Star. - Marlene P. in California


Cheese boxes

Dear Readers: Here is a way to recycle/reuse empty boxes of processed, shelf-stable cheese: Use them to organize your stuff. Reinforce the bottom with duct tape (or spray-paint, as I did one) to set in the pantry. They’re sturdy and can be used in craft rooms, garages or inside drawers. - Heloise


No stick

Dear Heloise: When I make gooey desserts like puffed-rice treats, here’s a tried-and-true hint: Before spreading the mixture, I spray the spoon with cooking oil. This will keep the marshmallow from sticking to it, and spreading the mixture will be easier. - Karen M., Spokane, Wash.

A ‘berry’ bad lady?
June 29, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s SOUND OFF is about grocery-store shoppers. A reader wrote: “Not too long ago, I was in a grocery store, and I saw a lady opening packages of strawberries and pulling from them the better-looking berries to replace the ones she had in her container.

“I suggested to her that she should stop. She didn’t throw anything, use foul language or give me mean looks; she just kept on doing what she was doing. By the time I found the store manager, the lady was gone.”
- Tim D., via email

Tim, I’ve seen this too, and have written about it. It’s not really illegal, but maybe not good manners. You might ask the store manager about their policy. It’s the same with a bag of grapes - you don’t HAVE to buy all that are in the bag. Store managers and readers, what say you?
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other things you can use as napkin rings:

- Shower-curtain rings.

- Kids costume-jewelry bracelets.

- Decorate and cut cardboard paper-towel rolls.

- Hoop earrings.

- The cuffs of long-sleeve T-shirts or sweatshirts.

- Heloise


Neighborhood projects

Dear Heloise: Women in my neighborhood formed a group that plans activities to do at least once or twice a month. Attendance is optional, and we’ve taken advantage of each other’s “creative” strengths. The activities don’t involve a lot of money, just a time to be together and socialize. Different women offer their home each time we meet.

We’ve created homemade cards, learned to crochet, quilted easy place mats, baked and more.

At each meeting, we decide the next meeting time, date and place. It’s been a great way to stay in contact with each other and informed/updated about neighborhood activities.
- Martha A., via email

And learn from each other! Maybe you could donate some of your projects. Check out local shelters and ministries, and see what they may need. You can learn new skills, have a nice time and do well!
- Heloise


Portion control

Dear Heloise: I am really trying to practice portion control, but when it comes to eating chips, I fall short. I love a good sandwich and chips!

I decided to try chips inside my sandwich. I put just enough to get a chip taste in every bite. I dropped my intake from about 40 to about five!

It satisfies my need to eat chips with my sandwich and controls the number of chips I consume. It’s a small step in the right direction.
- M.H., via email


Toothbrush-holder hint

Dear Heloise: I usually take a paring knife to work so that I can cut into my fruit at lunch. In transporting it to and from work, I carry it in a travel toothbrush holder. It fits well in my lunch bag, and the items in it are protected.
- Dorian G., via email

Dorian, good hint! But can you leave the knife at work in your desk or locker? No transportation worries.
- Heloise

Giving more than blood
June 22, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off comes from a reader who’s concerned about strangers having access to his private information. He wrote: “I realize how important it is to donate blood, but I have stopped doing so. Every time I go, I have to give every bit of ID information to complete strangers (always a different person). I have a Red Cross card, but I still must give verbal answers to requests, including my Social Security number.”
- Tony in Fullerton, Calif.

Tony, there are many more reasons to donate than not. Just check out the Red Cross website if you ever need a reason to continue doing what you’re doing.
- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for shower caps:

- Have workmen place them over their shoes before coming into your house.

- Place over food dishes at picnics or barbecues to keep the bugs off.

- As a pie-tin cover when reusing the tin for transporting cookies, fudge, etc.

- Cover a seedling for a mini greenhouse.

- Place over hotel- or motel-room phones to cut down on the spread of germs.

- Heloise

Cake recipes

Dear Heloise: When I bake cakes, I use a toothpick to check if the cake is done.

Lately, I’ve been trying my hand at baking thicker cakes, and now a toothpick isn’t long enough to check for readiness. Any hints on what I can use that is as thin as a toothpick?
- Jeri F. in San Diego

Jeri, for thicker cakes, try an uncooked spaghetti noodle. It’s actually long enough to go all the way down to the bottom of the pan. I have many other baking hints in a pamphlet that also includes some of my mother’s favorite recipes for you to try, since you’re trying your hand at baking. To get a copy of Heloise’s Cake Recipes pamphlet, 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. You also can order on my website, Baked goods, especially those that are homemade, are always a hit during any occasion. With each recipe you take a crack at, try stirring your own creative juices, and see what you can come up with!
- Heloise

Suitcases on wheels

Dear Heloise: I have a great hint, and I came up with it after my friend’s house burned down. She lost everything, including all family photos and film that she had stored in boxes, which were too heavy to lift.

Long story short, I went to a thrift store and picked up a few rolling suitcases. They are still useable and inexpensive. I have my photos in them. If there’s ever a fire, I can roll them out easily.
- Erin W., Orange, Calif.

Erin, great hint for reusing rolling suitcases, but just remember that in the event of a fire, life is much more precious than anything else.
- Heloise

Dial a letter?
June 16, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about businesses that use letters instead of numbers for a phone number:

“Dear Heloise: My Sound Off is that instead of businesses putting their phone number on TV, they spell out their business. (HELOISE HERE: An example is my reader fax number, 1-210-HELOISE, or 1-210-435-6473.) Then we have to look up every letter on our PHONE. It is time wasted!

“Just put the phone number and save me some time from having to look it up - 1-800-PLEASE!”
- A Reader, Youngstown, Ohio

Good point, and I agree. If you want my biz, make it easy for me to call you!
- Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some things you can use to prevent finger burns when using a hot-glue gun:

1. Wooden chopsticks.

2. Crochet or knitting needle.

3. An opened paper clip or bobby pin.

4. An ice pick.

5. A carpenter’s nail or needle-nose pliers.

- Heloise



Dear Heloise: Please remind drivers, when the weather is bad and visibility is poor, to turn on their headlights so drivers behind them can see the car’s back lights 

Some vehicles have running lights that turn on automatically, but the taillights aren’t on. I’ve been behind vehicles during bad weather, and seeing the taillights only when they’re breaking is frightening.
- Trina T. in Houston

Trina, I hear you, and if you live in Houston and drive much, you know that seeing taillights are imperative! Please note some states have a law that headlights must be on in inclement weather. Why take a chance? Turn on the lights when it’s bad weather.
- Heloise


Polyester blunder

Dear Heloise: PLEASE, I BEG YOU TO HELP ME! I went to press a polyester jacket (the sleeves), and the iron left black marks with the design of the soleplate imbedded in the fabric. I can’t wear it unless I get these stains out.
- Monica, via email

I’ll try, but it’s not a STAIN you can get out - it’s actually a burn of the fibers.

Polyester is a man-made fabric made with polymers (plastic), and your iron burned the plastic in the material.

You can’t remove it, but you may be able to hide it or cover it up!

First, try rolling up the sleeves so the burn is hidden. Or take the jacket to a fabric store and talk to a sales associate. These people are experts at this and probably can offer creative ideas and materials you can use. You may be able to enhance the look of your jacket. It’s time to get those creative juices flowing!
- Heloise  


Threading with lip balm

Dear Heloise: When threading a needle, I rub a little bit of lip balm on my index finger and thumb. Then I rub the end of the thread, and it stiffens the thread, which makes it easier to slide it into the eye of the needle.
- Elsie M., Colorado Springs, Colo.

‘Plane’ solution: back to front
June 9, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off, from a frustrated reader, is about boarding airplanes. She wrote: “We recently flew to Hawaii. This airline boards passengers differently than most. I wish they all would do the same.

“After first class, handicapped and children were boarded and seated, the general boarding began.

“Instead of boarding from the front, this airline boards from the back first. Passengers continue to put up luggage and get settled while others are boarding. The other passengers coming in don’t disturb them.

“This makes so much sense. I hope other airlines read this and take note. It would speed up the process and save time.”
- Margie M., Kerrville, Texas

Ah yes, the “cattle call” for boarding! I’ve done it so many times, I probably could do it in my sleep! Yes, I’ve flown on an airline that boarded from the back, and you are right! It also seemed to reduce the stress level. Airlines, are you listening?
- Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for grapefruit spoons:

- Core apples.

- Cut the seeds out of bell peppers.

- Scrape seeds out of jalapenos.

- Clean the inside of artichokes.

- Dig small holes when planting.

- Heloise

P.S.: If you don’t have one, definitely buy a few - you will love them, even if you don’t eat grapefruit.


Pantry cleanout

Dear Heloise: As summer approaches, we find lots of reasons to gather with family and friends. We have lots of barbecues!

Recently, we’ve stepped up our game and started a tradition that has been well-received: We ask our guests to look in their pantry and see if there’s any food that they’d like to donate to a food bank.

All we ask is that it hasn’t expired. They also know that this is optional - we don’t want anyone to feel obligated to bring something.

As we’ve had more gatherings, the donations have increased. I feel like people do want to donate - they just don’t have the time. So we do it for them.
- Jackie H. in Oklahoma

Brilliant, and a big Heloise hug for you. Food banks and food pantries always need donations, and every little bit helps.
- Heloise


Cleaning with newspapers

Dear Heloise: I’ve found that the best way to clean windows and mirrors is with newspaper. It’s so much better than paper towels, which tend to leave streaks and lint all over the place.

I simply spray the mirror or window with a window cleaner, crumple the paper and wipe away. No streaks or lint.
- Barbara, via email

Yes, Barbara, this longtime Heloise Hint is still a standby, and a “green hint,” too, as you are using the newspapers for another use!
- Heloise


Peanut-butter cookies

Dear Readers: When baking peanut-butter cookies, use a plastic fork when placing the “signature” crisscrosses on top of each cookie. The batter doesn’t stick to the plastic fork.
- Heloise

Don't drop the mic!
June 1, 2016

Dear Readers: A reader wrote: “My Sound Off is about the all-too-frequent speakers who refuse to use microphones because ‘I talk loud enough.’ Wrong!

“It’s not pleasant to listen to someone who’s shouting, or whose voice softens during the presentation. Listeners shouldn’t be expected to shout out that they can’t hear.

“People with hearing impediments shouldn’t have to embarrass themselves in front of a group to declare it publicly so the speaker will use the microphone.”
- Mary Anna, Omaha, Neb.


I hear you! I do many speeches and presentations during the year, and always request a “body mic,” also known as a lavalier. A sound check is imperative, and many times there are “hot spots” where there is feedback, and it’s important to get this obtrusive noise fixed. However, if it’s a small group in a room (not hundreds in an auditorium), I ask the audience if they can hear me, or would they like me to use a mic. - Heloise

P.S.: A funny note: When I wear a headset that has a mic, the metal part goes around the back of my head, with a loop or ear hook that rests on my ear. They usually use gaffer’s or duct tape to secure it. When I’ve finished the speech and take off the headset, there usually is a handful of my hair stuck to the tape!


Fast Facts about baking soda

Dear Readers: Other uses for baking soda:

- As a natural deodorant.

- As toothpaste.

- To minimize cat odor in litter boxes.

- To soothe an upset tummy.

- To eliminate other household odors.

Baking soda is so versatile that having some around the house is the smart thing to do. My pamphlet, which is filled with hints using baking soda, will save you a bundle of money. To order a copy, visit my website,, or send $5 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Baking soda should be in every kitchen and bathroom. It’s one of those must-have items that is safe, cheap and friendly to the environment. - Heloise


Junk-mail solutions

Dear Readers: Many of you responded with hints related to a Sound Off about excessive junk mail. K.H. in Jerseyville, Ill., offered this solution: “Write ‘VOID’ on the offer, fold the envelope it was mailed in and write ‘No Thanks’ on it. Then take the postage-paid envelope that came with it, put everything received back in it and mail back.”

Ken in Lubbock, Texas, wrote: “Take out the SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope), tear your address off the letter to you and write on it ‘No Thanks.’ Put it in the envelope and mail it back. That costs the sender 49 cents postage and 50 cents handling. You will get nothing else from that company.”

These are a few ways my readers have suggested to stop junk mail! One even said to write “dead” or “moved” on the “bounce back” and that will stop it. Maybe!
- Heloise


Caulking conundrum
May 25, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about newspapers with “wrap-arounds” on the front section.

“My complaint is about the newspaper’s annoying 3/4 page advertising cover of almost every issue of the paper! It goes straight into the bottom of the bird cage before I can sit down to read the paper.

“You can’t even hold the entire section to read it without getting rid of the extra flapping; wasted paper.”
- Sharon in San Antonio

Another reader wrote, “The 1/2 page cover on the front of our newspaper has become so annoying that as soon as I get the paper, I rip that piece off and recycle it so I can enjoy the rest of the paper.”

Dear Readers of Newspapers: Today’s newspaper world is far different from only a few decades ago. Newspapers have to do everything they can to bring in revenue while supplying information and entertainment for readers. As someone who has been in this biz for a loooooooooooong time (I grew up watching my mother, the original Heloise), it’s far better to change and adapt than to shut the doors.

While you may not like the “wrap-around,” it serves a purpose. So take a hint from Heloise: Take the advertising page off (most do) and recycle. It takes only a few seconds to do so. Enjoy your newspaper.
- Hugs, Heloise

P.S.: Please note, as an internationally syndicated newspaper columnist, I do have a very strong vested interest in newspapers and in helping my readers. Don’t give up!

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other items that can be used to store pierced earrings:

1. Old neckties

2. Place mats

3. Strips of ribbon

4. Socks

5. A sentimental T-shirt.

- Heloise


Mothball smells

Dear Heloise: When my grandmother passed away, I ended up with totes full of stuff from my childhood. They have a really bad mothball smell. Please, can you help me?
- Patricia M., via email


Patricia, this is a tough smell to get rid of. Generally, it’s only air circulation that will help the smell to dissipate. So, let Mother Nature work for you:

1. Hang garments outdoors in the breeze.

2. Put clothing into the dryer on ONLY “fluff dry” and toss in several fabric-softener sheets.
- Heloise


Highlight the dates

Dear Heloise: I recently saw a reader complaining about the size of the expiration dates on coupons and how difficult they are to find. When I find the date, I highlight it. This makes it easier to find the next time I view the coupon.

I also try to organize them according to the expiration date. This helps me stay mindful of old and current coupons.
- Jerry V., Galveston, Texas


Blanket solution

Dear Readers: Here’s a hint to rescue a blanket that may have shrunk in the dryer: Just sew a long strip of matching-color fabric to the bottom of the blanket. You can tuck this section under the foot of the mattress. - Heloise

Caulking conundrum
April 21, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about caulk or silicone waste. A reader wrote: “As homeowners for many years, we’re always doing some kind of fixing of something. Every year there’s a trip to the hardware store for caulk or silicone. It gets used and capped for the small odd job and then stored on a shelf for the next job.

“But every time we go to use it, it’s dried up, so we throw it away (waste of money). Back to the hardware store (waste of time). Why can’t they produce a half-size cartridge to fit our standard caulk guns?” - Bruce and Diane B. in New York

I feel your pain, and you are not alone. I found many “mini-caulking” guns on the Internet. Spend a little time, and I think you will find what you are looking for. Also, visit a local “mom and pop” hardware store, and I bet they can help you.

There are many hints to prolong the life once the cartridge is opened. There are a lot of variables: When is the next job? Where to store it?

Some hints to consider: Wait until you have multiple jobs. Check with neighbors to see if they could use your leftovers. Finally, see about donating unused portions to onsite builders or the Habitat builders.
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for old towels:

1. To dry pets with after a bath.

2. On the floorboards of vehicles when raining.

3. To wrap breakables when boxing for transport.

4. Under the seats of small children during mealtimes.

5. To wipe and shine fixtures in bathrooms.

- Heloise


Baby shampoo followup

Dear Heloise: I tried your recent hint on using baby shampoo to remove eye makeup. The shampoo didn’t begin to remove the makeup. It doesn’t work on mascara or eyeliner.

However, for years I’ve used baby oil (which is just mineral oil), and it removes every trace easily. - Linda C., via email

Linda, are you wearing waterproof mascara and eyeliner? Instead of a half-and-half solution, use undiluted baby shampoo. Yes, baby oil or mineral oil does work, but if you wear contacts, remove them first. Thanks for writing.
- Heloise


Cutting board odors

Dear Heloise: I use wooden cutting boards. What’s the best way to remove any odors that might be lingering before I put them away? I feel like you’d be the best “go-to” person for this!

I use many of your hints that have been printed in our Houston paper. Thanks, and keep them coming!
- Victoria M. in Houston


Thank you for your letter, Victoria! The best way to remove smells like onion or garlic from wooden cutting boards is to sprinkle the board with salt and rub the surface with a cut lemon or lime. Let sit 10-15 minutes, then wash with warm, soapy water and air-dry.
- Heloise


The case of the unfit pillows
April 21, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off comes from a reader who is not too happy with the sizes of her pillowcases.

She wrote: “Pillowcases are too narrow to get a bed pillow in! I’ve been fighting them for years.

“They were never this narrow when I was growing up. Every set of sheets I have has pillowcases that don’t easily fit any of my pillows without being a frustrating battle.” - Kay H., Palmdale, Calif.

Kay, maybe the bigger problem here is that the pillows nowadays are thicker and fluffier than when we were growing up. If so, then maybe manufacturers need to rethink pillowcase sizes because of this fact. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for muffin tins:

1. Make large ice cubes for punch bowls.

2. Use as an “equal portion” device.

3. Turn over to hold taco shells while filling.

4. For different paint colors when painting.

5. As a snack tray at children’s parties.

- Heloise

Versatile vinegar

Dear Heloise: Growing up, my mother was the “Cleaning Queen” of the neighborhood, and vinegar solutions were her go-to products. I HATED the smell of vinegar! Now that I am older, I see the usefulness of vinegar as a cleaner/deodorizer. As I use it more and more, I also am finding its scent to be a bit more tolerable!
- Clarisse R., via email

Clarisse, I love using vinegar, not just as a cleaner but also as an ingredient in recipes. I actually have a pamphlet titled Heloise’s Fantabulous Vinegar Hints and More. In it are many hints and recipes for using the different types of vinegars. To get a copy of the pamphlet, send $5 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. You also can order it on my website, The more you know about the various types of vinegars, the more you will find yourself using them for more than just cleaning. Vinegar is just that versatile!
- Heloise

Keep cool

Dear Heloise: Whenever I garden, I wear a straw hat. Inside the hat is a damp cloth to keep my head cool, especially if I am out in the heat for a while.

If the cloth gets warm, I take it out and shake it a few times. This action cools the cloth off and allows me to continue working.
- Heather T., Austin, Texas


Dear Heloise: Family gatherings equal lots of leftovers. When taking plates of food home, we use a hardy paper plate and load it up with food. We cover it with plastic wrap, then slip another plate under the first plate to hold the wrap in place.
- Judy in Houston

Powder-puff duster

Dear Readers: Buy a brand-new powder puff and place it in your flour canister so that it will be handy when you need to dust a baking pan.
- Heloise


A rack of mixed messages
May 3, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about not having enough towel racks in hotels:

“Dear Heloise: In today’s ecologically correct world, hotels leave notes requesting guests to please reuse towels by hanging them up. Why haven’t they made this feasible by actually providing an adequate number of towel racks?

“During a recent hotel visit, our family had a lovely suite that slept six people. We used the one towel rack available and then hung the remainder of our wet towels over the shower-curtain rod.

“After daily maid service, they were all removed and replaced with clean towels! So much for saving water!”
 - Glo in Colorado Springs, Colo.

I hear you! It can be confusing sometimes. The notes generally do say to please put towels you want replaced on the floor. Which, in my mind, is pretty disgusting to plop down a mess of wet towels for housekeeping to pick up. Yes, my mother taught us to never leave wet towels on the floor - put them in the tub!

Hanging damp towels over the shower-curtain rod is what we do, especially if there are no extra towel racks. I’ve used a hanger and draped the towel over that.

Heloise hint? Call housekeeping early and tell them you don’t need fresh towels, only the amenities, or maybe just empty the trash. Or leave a note.
- Too Many Hotel Stays, Heloise

P.S.: Housekeeping works very hard, so please remember to tip them a few dollars.


Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for empty bread bags:

1. For cleaning cat litter boxes.

2. As extra packaging material when mailing packages.

3. To pack multiple sandwiches for beach or picnic outings.

4. As a doggy scoop bag when walking the dog.

5. To cover fan blades when painting ceilings.

 - Heloise


Chopsticks for plants

Dear Heloise: Whenever we eat at a Chinese restaurant, I take the wooden disposable chopsticks home, where I use them to help support my indoor potted plants. They work great!
- Chris W., via email.


Chris, I love chopsticks! There are different types, too. I have some I brought home from China and Japan. Some are beautiful hand-painted ones, some purple, and there’s a stunning black lacquer pair. I use them to put my hair up.
- Hugs, Heloise.


Sorting socks

Dear Heloise: We’re a household of five, and I HATE washing socks - washing, sorting and putting them away! I purchased a mesh laundry bag for each of my three children. When I do the laundry, I wash the bags of socks. There is no more than a week’s worth at a time.

When dried, I give each child their bag for them to sort and put away. Now I don’t mind washing socks!
- Alice M., via email


No bubbling over

Dear Heloise: When I make potato salad for a family gathering, I wipe some butter or cooking oil on the inside top of the pot. This seems to help prevent that awful bubbling over.
 - Mary S., San Marcos, Texas


My comforter lacks some comfort
April 27, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the size of comforter sets. Ruthi S. wrote: “I just purchased a new queen-size comforter set that is too short for the bed.

“A king size would be too wide, so that is not an option. It seems that mattresses are getting thicker and thicker, and the comforters are getting smaller and smaller.

“When I compared this new one to the one I am currently using, the new one is at least 9 inches shorter. If the manufacturers think they are saving money by using less material, they need to realize that they also are losing sales over this practice.”
- Ruthi S., Martinsburg, W.Va.

Ruthi, thanks for sharing your comment! This is an ongoing problem. The old saying “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” applies here.

Yes, mattresses are getting “thicker"; thus, older sheets, bedspreads and comforters do not fit properly. As to the comforter manufacturers, there is a vast amount of difference in dimension! The only thing I can say is, measure YOUR mattress, including height, before shopping for bedding.

When we got adjustable beds (which I LOVE, by the way), I had to resort to making a bedspread! It’s a good thing I can sew, or we’d be using TWO queen bedspreads. Sooooo ... there you “sew”!
- Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for old leather belts (additional holes may be needed):

1. As an earring holder.

2. To hold barrettes or hair clips.

3. Hang from a wall to display commemorative pins.

4. Wrap around a pot plant to add some flair.

5. As a purse or camera strap.

- Heloise


Unclaimed clothing

Dear Heloise: I am a retired school nurse.  I used to gather unclaimed garments at the end of the school year, take them home and wash them. I would keep whatever I thought I may use in the upcoming year. Students may have a need for clothing I salvaged.

The extra I would take to places in town that distribute clothing to people. You’d be surprised at the quality of some of the items. I always had use for the items, as students had “accidents” during the year, and parents could not be reached. I could furnish jeans, or a jacket if it turned cold.

I don’t know if school policy would allow this anymore, but it sure came in useful for me when I worked.
 - Margie M., Kerrville, Texas


Margie, you are one special person! Yes, schools do need extra clothing for students who may have a mishap, tear something, get sick, etc. Readers, check with schools in your area to see if they need clothing. This is a prefect service project for a school club. - Hugs, Heloise

Cleaner hands

Dear Heloise: To get my great-grandchildren to wash their hands long enough, I put a few drops of food coloring into the liquid hand wash. They have to keep washing until the running water comes clear.
- Helen L., Abbot, Texas

Opening answer to resealable bags
April 21, 2016

Dear Readers: I got to Sound Off recently about my frustration with opening resealable cheese, produce, even dog-food plastic bags. You agreed and shared your Hints for Heloise to manage with this “convenient” inconvenient packaging:

Grace in California said she cuts the bag open and puts the contents in sealable containers.

Judy in Illinois said she takes her scissors and cuts off the very top edge, which leaves her with more plastic to open the package.

Two readers, Mary and Carol, said that after opening, they use a chip clip or a clothespin to close the bag.

Finally, Bruce, a retired M.D. in Little Rock, Ark., said to make a “scoop” cut in the middle of one side of the top of the package to have a way to pull it open.

Bruce, were you a surgeon? This sounds like you might have been!

One office “magpie” tried Bruce’s “scoop” hint. She cut a notch in the center of the bag, and it worked.

HOWEVER, it seemed wasteful, redundant and superfluous to then put the contents in a zip bag!
- Heloise

P.S.: I challenge manufacturers to take 100 of your packaging bags, hand them to employees and see what happens! No knives or scissors allowed.


Sound Off

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

"Dear Heloise: I am unhappy that athletic pants for women have no pockets, but almost all athletic pants for men have pockets.” - Barbara in San Antonio

I wish I had an answer for you! I’ve looked online - some retail sites say they have women’s athletic pants with pockets, but I sure had a hard time finding some. You could TRY men’s pants and see if they fit.
- Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for a high school/college calculator’s soft case:

- Hold writing supplies.

- Store eyeglasses in a pinch.

- Carry medications, such as diabetic pens.

- Store a cellphone, charger and cord.

- For grooming supplies: tweezers, combs, mascara, etc.

- Heloise


Packing Dishes

Dear Readers: It’s time for students to be coming home, packing up dorms or apartments for the summer. Here’s a low-cost hint for packing dishes and plates that will speed up the process and protect them during transport:

Use cheap paper or foam plates to place between each dish. Wrap a small stack (no more than five plates) with some kind of nonprinted paper. Newspaper is a cheap and standby thing to use - just be aware that the ink might rub off. Use sheets, towels or shirts to wrap.

Pack tightly into boxes cushioned with bath towels, sheets or other materials that you are moving.
- Heloise


Reuse Socks

Dear Heloise: I take clean, mismatched socks sprayed with dusting spray and use them to gently clean my figurines. I hold them gently in my hands and clean off the dust. Works great!
- Alexia V., Fort Worth, Texas


Don’t put this lid on it!
April 13, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about flip-top cans. A reader wrote: “I don’t have the strength in my hands to pull flip-top cans open.

“To make matters worse, these cans cannot be opened with a can opener. The rims of the cans are too high for a can opener to open. There’s not a can out there, from fruit to nuts, that doesn’t have this type of lid.

“I know you reach a million readers, and someone from one of these companies will see it. I have called the customer-service number on each can. Their response was they would pass it on. So, that’s it. I hope you can get the word out.” - Jeri B., San Angelo, Texas

Jeri, there’s an inexpensive gadget you can buy to help you and others (including me!) get these darned lids off. It’s a ring-pull opener and is designed specifically for flip-tops. It takes the stress off the hands. Also, do look closely at the bottom of the cans - many can be opened with a can opener on the bottom.
- Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here is a short list of easy and inexpensive gifts that anyone, especially seniors, will appreciate:

1. The gift of your time.

2. A picture collage of multiple family members.

3. A good letter or a simple greeting card that they can cherish always.

4. A meal at their favorite restaurant, or bring them a meal from there.

5. Take them with you when visiting other family members

- Heloise


Salt Substitute

Dear Heloise: We’re trying to cut back on salt, and I was told that you had a salt-substitute recipe that I could make and use. Love your column and all the great hints I can use. - Carolina T., Springfield, Ill.

This is one of my favorites, and it is flavorful. Note: It uses onion and garlic powders, not salts.

- 5 teaspoons onion powder

- 1 tablespoon garlic powder

- 1 tablespoon paprika

- 1 tablespoon dry mustard

- 1 teaspoon thyme

- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper (or black)

- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

Mix all of the ingredients and store in a container in a cool, dry place. If you’d like other ideas, I have compiled recipes in a seasonings pamphlet. To order a copy of Heloise’s Seasonings, Sauces and Substitutes pamphlet, visit, or send $3 and a stamped (71 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/ SSS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Depending on the dish, sometimes a drop or two of lemon juice will perk up a salad. Trying to cut back on using table salt? Taste the dish first, then a second time, and only then salt. - Heloise


Gravesite Flowers

Dear Heloise: I visit a memorial area where my wife’s ashes are scattered, and I take flowers. I take a cordless drill, drill holes into the ground and place the flowers in the holes in the ground. Works fine, and the flowers stay put. - Mr. William B., Dayton, Ohio

Personal junk
April 6, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about junk-mail offers. A reader wrote, “My gripe is about the ‘junk mail’ offers from banks and credit-card companies who feel the need to print my name and address not only on the envelope and cover letter, but elsewhere in the enclosed documents.

“When recycling this sort of mail, I have to riffle through all the pages to make sure that my personal information is removed before disposing of it.

“This does not endear me to the company trying to gain my business.” - Mary H., Louisville, Ohio

It can be a pain in the neck to open or tear up junk mail with your personal information on it. Anything from your bank or credit-card issuer should be opened and then destroyed, or just tear the letter up! You can’t be too careful these days.

You can call/email/write them and tell them you want to be on their no-solicitation list. It helps! - Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for cardboard wine carriers, which can carry or hold:

- Various condiments.

- Different kinds of salad dressings.

- A variety of small crafting tools.

- Boxes of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, etc.

- Small gardening tools.

- Heloise


No Yucky Bar Soap

Dear Heloise: I have young children who are constantly being reminded to wash their hands. I’ve found that a bar of soap lasts a whole lot longer than liquid soap, which the kids never felt like one squirt was enough for clean hands.

To keep the soap from liquefying and getting nasty in the soap dish, I placed a baby brush, bristle side up, in the dish. The soap rests on top of the brush and stays nice and dry. - Hannah in Nipomo, Calif.


Fruit Stickers

Dear Heloise: I have a problem opening produce bags and sometimes cannot get them open. One day, I happened to think of using one of the stickers on the produce. I stuck part of it on the top of one side of the bag. I was able to pull the bag open.

Now I have no problem opening them. I also use the same sticker on all the bags I need to open.
- Margaret in Temple, Texas

Well, Margaret, I think you just gave my readers a very useful hint for using those pesky stickers that no one really likes. - Heloise


Degrime in No Time

Dear Readers: Do you have a favorite deck of cards that you use every time you play cards with friends or family? Are they getting grimy? Here’s an easy hint to clean them.

Put the deck of cards in a plastic bag with a scoop or two of cornstarch or baking soda. Shake it up for a minute or two. Remove the cards and wipe off the powder.

Degrimed in no time! You can use this hint to clean cards from board games and other card games that your kids may enjoy playing. - Heloise


‘Who Is This?’ Is All Wrong
March 30, 2016

Dear Readers: This week’s Sound Off is about people who dial the wrong phone number and are rude. Read on and see what you think:

“Dear Heloise: I am tired of people calling me by mistake and then asking who they are talking to. I try to ask,’Who are you trying to reach?’ and they keep asking me, ‘What number is this? Who is this?’

“Please ask your readers that if they misdialed or are not sure, they should ask for such and such business or so and so person by name. I live alone and am NOT going to give them my name. I hate being rude.” - No Name, via email

Dear No Name: Hello, who are you? Where are you writing from? I’m with you. I’ve had people call one of my phone numbers and say, after I politely said THREE TIMES that there is no one here by that name, “Oh, well, lady, you don’t have to be rude about it.” Really! - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for a clothespin:

- Close a chip or bread bag.

- Close curtains in a hotel room.

- Hold a recipe card.

- Clip packages of salad-dressing mix.

- Clip to a planter with the date you last added plant food.

- Heloise

Care Packages for Troops

Dear Readers: Here is a simple and wonderful way to support our troops overseas. St. Michael’s Soldiers is a nonprofit organization that creates care packages for troops stationed abroad.

They can use all sorts of items, including pantyhose (for cleaning weapons - now that’s a Heloise hint!), dental floss, stationery, cards, envelopes and stamps (yes, they still write letters). Fun stuff: comic books, travel cards, footballs, food, hot sauce, gum, hard candy, girly stuff, perfume or makeup samples, hand lotion, trail mix, cookies and more!

Send your items to: St. Michael’s Soldiers, 1635 Farm Way, Suite 409, Middleburg, FL 32068. If you need to call, the phone number is 904-599-7855. To learn more and see other items, visit their website: They have a comprehensive list of items requested most by the troops.


A hug and salute to one and all. Thank you. - Heloise

P.S.: You can use a U.S. Postal Service Flat Rate box, which is cheap! Remember, the organization can always use money - it’s the right size, and it buys more.


Fix a Leak or Pay a Bundle

Dear Heloise: I was reading one of your books, titled “Heloise Conquers Stinks and Stains,” and found a hint that made me chuckle.

The title, “To Prevent Oil Stains on Your Garage Floor,” gave these hints, in this order:

$$$$ Buy a new car

$$$ Have the leak repaired at your local garage

$$ Treat the floor with a masonry sealer that will be effective for years

$ Place a drip tray under the car

Funny and cute. If you can fix the leak yourself, it’s cheaper than all of the hints. - C.L., Fort Worth, Texas

Hear This: Eardrops not so easy
March 23, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is a complaint about medications, and I concur with a loud roar!

“Dear Heloise: It seems that each time we renew a prescription, the pills change size, shape and/or color. Even the bottles sometimes change.

“We easily see the DISADVANTAGE of this to patients, especially those who get their pills from a three-month supplier. Sometimes the size, shape and color of one prescription will be different from the past one, adding to the confusion.

“What earthly advantage is this to the manufacturer? Improper dosage has certainly resulted in countless needless trips to the emergency room.” - Charles and Marva C., Universal City, Texas

This is not a new complaint. I’ve written about this for many years, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has gotten complaints, too.

You are right; it can cause confusion and even interfere with the compliance of taking a medication correctly. One thought is that manufacturers may be trying to make pills easier to swallow, since this is a major complaint of patients.

If the dispensing pharmacy changes suppliers for a medication, you might as well spin the roulette wheel. The bottles may be different, the pills themselves may be a different color/size/ shape!

My hint: Check all meds closely before taking them. Also, ask the pharmacist or dispensing pharmacy (if mail-order) why there was a change and could you stay with the same pill. It’s worth a shot! Bad pun!
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for pants hangers. Use to hang:

- multiple scarves

- ball caps

- costume necklaces, rings or bracelets

- tank tops

- bras.

- Heloise

Leftover Coffee

Dear Heloise: Coffee was never my beverage of choice. Now I am branching out and trying new coffees. It’s nice on cold winter days. I was wondering if you could help me. I now have a LOT of different ones and, well, I only drink two to three cups a day. Half a pot usually is left over. Hints? - Teri in Huron, S.D.

You bet your cup of joe (a slang term for coffee)! When the coffee is cool, pour it into a container with a lid, and put into the refrigerator. Iced coffee with a dash of cinnamon or a splash of vanilla is a nice change. Also, put ice cubes in a blender, add cold coffee, milk or cream and sweetener, and blend away: a coffee slush! For more coffee hints and recipes, order my coffee pamphlet. Visit, or send $3 and a long self-addressed, stamped (71 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Flavored Coffees and Teas, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Pour cold leftover coffee into ice-cube trays, freeze and use in iced coffee, or to “cool” down a too-hot cup of java. - Heloise

No more slippage

Dear Heloise: I crocheted around hangers to keep tops from sliding off. I have a simple solution I now do: I use sheet felt material. Cut out 3/4-inch-by-4-inch rectangles and hot-glue one to the top of each “branch” of the hanger. - Jeri, via email









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