Stop the music!


Sept. 28, 2016


Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the music that’s played in retail stores. This reader wrote: “Why do retail stores seem to believe that customers need to be entertained with music while shopping?

“I find it extremely distracting to try to concentrate on what I am shopping for when bombarded by loud and distasteful music. Shoppers are not there to listen to the Top 10 hits! If music is necessary at all, it should be heard only as background music.

“Am I the only person who feels this way? Maybe the influence of Heloise fans’ opinions will be influential. Love your column!” - Barbara in Canfield, Ohio

I don’t know, Barbara - let’s put it out there! Do any of my readers have an opinion about this? What’s your take on music while shopping? I’m curious. - Heloise


Dear Readers: Here are some other items that can easily be used as a “spur of the moment” soap dish.

* A small, decorative salad plate.

* A plastic lid from a container or chip can.

* An ashtray.

* A planter base.

* A small plastic bowl or container.

- Heloise

Drawstring dilemma

Dear Heloise: My linen pants have a drawstring waist (similar to a shoestring) that has become knotted, and I can’t unknot it. Is the only solution to cut it? - Lynann, via email

Lynann, it sounds like that string is useless, but all’s not lost. Get another drawstring, preferably one that doesn’t fray or unravel. Make sure the length is similar to the old length.

Then go ahead and cut the old string, but before you pull it through, attach the new string to one end of the old string. Use safety pins to do this. Then slowly and gently pull the old one through from the other end. The new one will replace the old one, and voila, you now have a new string in place of the old. Simply detach the old one and find an alternate use for it - if you can. - Heloise

Here’s a thought

Dear Readers: A reader responded to a column where we hinted about not using important documents or money as bookmarks, since they could get lost or stolen.

He said: “I’ve been financially blessed well enough to occasionally, on purpose, leave paper money inside of a library book because I like to imagine the thrill of being the person who finds that money.

“It’s thrilling enough to find your own money in the pants pocket of a pair of forgotten pants, let alone finding money that is ‘finders keepers.’ I’ll confess I’ve also used cash as my ‘message in a bottle’ and sent it out into the ocean for some lucky person to find.” - David W., via email

Thanks for your perspective on this subject, David. This is a nice example of “paying it forward”!
- Heloise

Mushroom-brush alternative

Dear Readers: Here’s an alternative to those expensive mushroom brushes: Try using a baby hairbrush. It cleans the dirt off yet doesn’t damage the mushrooms!
- Heloise

Label this ‘irritating’
Sept. 22, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about clothing labels. A reader wrote: “Why do clothing manufacturers persist in putting scratchy labels in the necks of shirts and nightwear? I have two brand-new garments that I put holes in trying to remove the uncomfortable labels!

“The least they could do is give us a fighting chance of successfully removing the labels (without damaging our new clothes) by sewing them in with long stitches in a contrasting color of thread. Better yet, no label in the neck at all.

“Thanks for your great columns; I’ve been reading them for many years and have implemented many hints. But sometimes I read a hint and think: ‘I’ve been doing that all my life! There are people who don’t know this?’” - Judy N., Mansfield, Ohio

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: What to do with extra mouse pads? Here are some other possible uses for them:

- As drink coasters.

- Under a sewing-machine pedal to reduce slippage.

- Cut into small pieces and place under table legs to prevent damage to wood floors.

- Place under in-house potted plants to prevent scratching or marking floors.

- Under hot casserole dishes to protect your tabletop.

- Heloise


Hints on battery disposal

Dear Heloise: Thanks for the advice on how to store batteries (not in the refrigerator). However, is there a proper way to dispose of batteries? I’m guessing most people simply throw their flashlight or gadget batteries into the trash can. Is that a bad thing? - Harry P., Kerrville, Texas


Harry, after a bit of research, here’s what I’d recommend, as there are a variety of household-type batteries in any one home:

1. Everyday alkaline batteries, which are most of your household types, can go out with the regular trash.

2. Lithium-ion batteries, like those used in cellphones and laptop computers, also can be placed in the garbage, as long as they have been fully discharged. If not, dispose of them at a household hazardous-waste site.

3. Silver-oxide batteries and button cells, normally used in watches, calculators and hearing aids, also should be disposed of at a household hazardous-waste site.

- Heloise


Dirty nails? No problem

Dear Heloise: I love to garden, so dirt under my fingernails is inevitable, since I prefer to garden without gloves. To get the dirt out from under my nails, if I’m outside, I will use the jet stream from my hand-watering sprinkler head, gently pull back my finger pads and spray directly at the tips of my nails.

If I am inside, I simply use my kitchen-sink sprayer in the same way. Both work great in flushing out the dirt. - Janice B. in Oklahoma


Eyeglass-case game changer

Dear Heloise: Before I sew, I fill all of my sewing-machine bobbins with the thread I’ll be using for the project and place them in an eyeglass case that snaps shut. This way, I know where they are, and if it falls to the ground, the case stays shut!  - Georgia H. in San Antonio

Have you addressed this issue?
Sept. 14, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about street addresses that are difficult to find and/or nonexistent. A reader wrote: “I do occasional work delivering late airline luggage to their owners and have noted many house address numbers are either nonexistent or not easily visible. Only the home occupant and mail carriers can easily locate the house. It’s a big deal for first responders when time matters. Home occupants might want to drive by their home to see if their house number stands out.” - Lance C., via email

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are other ways you can use a potato masher:

- Break up ground meat when cooking.

- Mash eggs when making egg salad.

- Use to mix items in a round pot or bowl.

- Make designs on peanut-butter cookies.

- Crush fruit to make jams and jellies.

- Heloise

Frozen soup

Dear Heloise: I clipped a hint from our San Antonio Express-News where one of your readers mentioned making a large pot of soup and freezing it before taking a trip so that they had an easy meal upon their return. This turned out to be great hint. Before a recent trip, I did the same thing, and it made “transitioning” back home easy. By any chance, do you have any soup recipes that you can pass my way? I would love to build my stash of soup recipes. Thanks! - Julie M. in San Antonio

Julie, I love to hear readers taking hints and making them their own. Soups come in a variety of types. I have a great pamphlet called Heloise’s Spectacular Soups that’s not only packed with many different soup recipes, but it also has information on the different types of soups. To order, go online to, or send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Soups, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Who knows, your family may like a bouillabaisse over a chowder or a goulash! - Heloise

Mail procedures

Dear Readers: As with everything, there are proper mail procedures to follow in the event of a death or change of address. The U.S. Postal Service makes these recommendations:

1. When stopping or redirecting mail, file a request at the post office. It may take up to three months for the information to be removed from advertisers’ mailing lists.

2. If you shared an address with the deceased, you can either notify the post office or do nothing.

3. If you have to forward a deceased person’s mail, you must file a request at your local post office. You’ll need to have valid proof that you’re the executor or the authorized administrator managing the deceased’s mail before completing a change-of-address form.  - Heloise

Not just for turkeys

Dear Readers: Do you have plants that are difficult to water? Are they practically out of reach or too dense for you to get water to the soil? Pull out that turkey baster and try watering with it. Makes watering those plants so much easier. - Heloise

Carryout commendation
Sept. 7, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound On comes from a reader complimenting a large chain restaurant’s effort to recycle. She wrote: “I want to commend a local restaurant for their carryout containers.

“I ordered some food to go and got it home in what I thought were insulated foam containers. Upon further inspection, I noticed that one of the containers was listed as ‘microwave-safe,’ and the smaller container was not only microwave-safe but also dishwasher-safe.

“I really like the idea of reusing containers multiple times, thus limiting the number of insulated foam containers I would contribute to the environment. I want to thank this large chain restaurant for doing its part to limit the use of this type of container.” - Harold W. in San Antonio 

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for a pizza cutter:

1. Cutting toast.

2. Cutting waffles.

3. Slicing cookie dough.

4. Chopping up parsley

5. For anything thin requiring a clean cut.

- Heloise

Shrinking-socks solution

Dear Heloise: I am experiencing something that I never used to experience: I buy women’s socks, which usually are the size I need, or even a little bit bigger. After a while, they tend to shrink to a child’s size. The store takes them back, but I’m still without socks. - Katie, via email

Katie, I’ll bet that socks too small for your feet can be uncomfortable. I’m not sure why this is happening, but here are a few hints to consider:

- Buy socks that aren’t made of cotton, since cotton shrinks.

- If you like cotton, then consider hand-washing them or washing them in cold water. Then “hand stretch” and let them dry naturally.

- If you must dry electronically, stretch them before drying, and then dry on the coolest cycle.

- Heloise

Paper clips no more

Dear Heloise: I’ve a hint that I think is worth mentioning, and would love to see if it makes it into the San Antonio Express-News: Every morning, my husband uses a small paper cup to rinse and take his morning “cocktail” of supplements. That’s 365 cups per year from one person alone!

Most days I like to have a pudding or gelatin snack for a quick dessert. I used to simply recycle the containers, but now I clean and dry them for him to reuse during his morning routine. He actually likes them better, because they’re sturdier and he can use them multiple times.

Thanks for all of your and your readers’ hints. I love to see where they come from and look for better ways to do things! - Harriet K. in San Antonio

Mouthwash the toilet bowl

Dear Readers: In a pinch, you can use an alcohol-based mouthwash to clean your toilet bowl. Consider this: Mouthwashes are designed with germ-killing agents.

Pour 1/4 cup of mouthwash in the bowl and let sit for at least half an hour. Then swish with your toilet brush before flushing for a sparkly clean bowl. - Heloise

Print that's not so fine
Aug. 31, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about a craft store’s coupons:

“A fabric store sends out ‘valuable coupons’ for its patrons to use. At first glance, the deals look amazing, offering as much as 60 percent off the total purchase.

“Reading the fine print - and believe me, it’s really, really fine - you’ll see that anything you might consider using the coupon for is exempt from the discount! Listed on each coupon can be as many as 25-plus categories/items.

“The items listed are printed in the tiniest font possible. I used a magnifying glass just to read it! Even my son, whose vision is fine, couldn’t believe the font used on the coupons.” - Anna A. in San Antonio

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for an empty, cleaned-out potato-chip can. Repurpose it to:

1. Store multiple coffee pods.

2. Hold crochet or knitting needles.

3. Carry or store condiment packets.

4. Protect some of the more popular store-bought cookies.

5. Contain children’s small toys.

- Heloise


Operation Care and Comfort

Dear Heloise: In March 2013, you printed a hint about supporting the valuable nonprofit Operation Care and Comfort, which sends care packages to deployed troops.

I’ve since discovered that the address you provided then (I clipped and saved the column) is no longer valid. The new address is:

Operation Care and Comfort
c/o American Red Cross
2731 North First Street
San Jose
, CA 95134

Thanks! - Beth, via email

Beth, thanks for the update. Further research on this topic gave me the following websites, for those of you who prefer going that route. Here is a list:

- Heloise

Gripping a shelf liner

Dear Heloise: A few weeks ago, you posted other uses for gripping shelf liner, and I wanted to thank you for the soap-dish hint.

My bar of soap kept falling out of the “cutout” soap dish in my shower stall. I had some leftover liner, so I cut a small piece to fit in the soap dish. Now the bar stays put, and if I ever have to clean the liner, I simply take it out of the dish and wring it a few times under the water spray.

Again, thanks for the wonderful hint! So simple, but not necessarily so obvious! - Frankie H., via email

Office-supply catalog

Dear Heloise: I’m a retired teacher and am always trying to find different ways to reinforce my middle-school-age grandchildren’s academic skills. I recently acquired a catalog from a local office-supply store and used it to reinforce many math, reading and language skills.

The great thing is that the children actually enjoy looking through it, so it was easy to follow along and ask questions related to a certain page’s content. They know that I love learning and will try to fit in some "learning time” while we’re together. I make it fun, and they seem to enjoy it. - Gam in Minnesota

What's the deal?
Aug. 24, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is something I think about, too:

“Dear Heloise: My Pet Peeve is with companies that offer new customers discounts, freebies and all kinds of perks, not knowing if they will ever even pay their bills on time or even stay with them. Yet they do nothing for longtime loyal customers who have always paid their bills in a timely fashion.

“Example: We have been with our cable company for 40 years, yet I know some people who are new to the company, and they get a far lower rate than we do for the exact same services. Aggravating! Keep up the good work!” - Janey C., via email

Janey, I’m with you! You would think they would REWARD LONGTIME customers who are good customers, too. Here’s a hint: Gather your bills for the past few months, have the “NEW” offer for new customers handy and call the company. Tell them you would like to talk with someone about the offer or how to lower your bill. You can say you have been looking at all the offers from other providers (which you should, by the way) and want to compare.

I’ve done this several times, and most times I have been accommodated nicely.

The few times they would not budge, I closed the account and went with a new company, and I saved a bundle! - Heloise

Removing water marks

Dear Heloise: I have a framed cross-stitch that I want to pass on to my daughter. There’s a noticeable water mark on it. Do you have any suggestions on how to remove it? So afraid I’m going to do more damage to it. Hope to hear from you. Thanks! - Liz, via email

Liz, preserving vintage “anything” is a careful and delicate process. Sorry to say, a water mark is a water mark - it’s not really a stain, per se. If it’s on the fibers, the cross-stitch thread, you can’t really remove that. So, I’m going to ask my readers, who always come through, to help Liz and me! Please email, fax 210-HELOISE (210-435-6473) or write (yes, I love your letters) to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279. - Heloise

P.S.: I admire people who cross-stitch! Wow, what patience!

Baking soda to the rescue

Dear Heloise: While I was deboning chicken, I dropped a piece that landed on my shoe and created an oil spot.  My mom said to put baking soda on it, which I did. I’m happy to report that it worked. The spot’s gone! She said it was a “Heloise hint”! Thanks. - Ryan A., via email

A light in the dusk?
Aug. 17, 2016

Dear Readers: A recent Sound Off was about drivers NOT using their lights during low-visibility weather so the taillights will be seen when braking.

“Dear Heloise: Drivers in newer cars don’t turn their car’s headlights on when dusk falls upon the city. I see many of them even driving in the dark. 

“Please, please, drivers - read your manuals. Many cars have the feature to leave the lights on even when driving during the day. Had to get this off my chest, Heloise.” - Marianna S., Irvine, Calif.


Marianna, good point about leaving the headlights in the “on” position, depending on the vehicle. It is a nice feature to not have to worry about “Are the lights on or off?” especially in daytime bad weather. Readers, please take a few minutes to check your vehicle to see if the setting is correct. - Heloise

P.S.: Some states have laws where one MUST use lights during bad weather, regardless of the time of day.

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Uses for gripping shelf liner:

- Under a cutting board or soap dish.

- Under the legs of a shower seat.

- In a tub when bathing a pet.

- Attach strips to the top of plastic hanger arms.

- Under a pet’s food and water dishes.

- Heloise


Reduce junk mail

Dear Heloise: A reader suggested writing “dead” or “moved” on the business-reply mail piece included in junk-mail pieces. There’s a possibility that the mail carrier will become aware of such misinformation, which may result in the person’s mail being delayed as the carrier waits for the “correct” address.
- Jerri R., via email


Jerri, you may have misunderstood the reader’s suggestion. It was to write “dead” or “moved” on the reply form that goes INSIDE the return envelope. You are, of course, correct: Do NOT write this on the outside envelope. The hint was meant to make the company take one OFF the mailing list and reduce the amount of junk mail that clogs mailboxes! Hope this clears things up. - Heloise


Nail-polish remover for burned plastic

Dear Heloise: By accident, the plastic bag from my loaf of bread melted onto the toaster. I tried different ways to clean it, but nail-polish remover worked!

Of course, I let the toaster cool down first before using the nail-polish remover on a paper towel to remove the plastic. (HELOISE HERE: Do be sure to UNPLUG the toaster, just to be safe.)

When it was clean, I wiped the whole toaster down with a damp towel (it’s been a while since I cleaned it, anyway!), and dried it right away. It’s clean and shiny now! - Anna A. in San Antonio


Recycle bedsheets

Dear Readers: Don’t throw away those old bedsheets! They can be used by children to make tents, as dust covers for furniture, as tablecloths at picnics or as a dropcloth when doing arts and crafts - less cleanup!
 - Heloise


A numbers game?
July 27, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about not finding phone numbers in magazines. Janet H. in San Antonio wrote: “Have you ever tried to look for a telephone number in a magazine? Even on the page that lists the offices and departments, I can find no numbers to call.

"My husband and I live in the ‘dark ages.’ We don’t have a computer. Can you believe it? I wonder how many others are in the same boat. Any suggestions?”


Janet, sometimes the number is listed, but way at the bottom of one of the pages. For others who don’t have access to a computer, call 800-555-1212, which is toll-free (it will not cost you), to get the phone number you are looking for. I write for Good Housekeeping magazine, and when I called the above free phone number, they gave me the customer-service number in just a few seconds. - Heloise 

8-by-10 picture frame

Dear Heloise: I purchased an 8-by-10-inch acrylic picture frame, and I can’t tell you how many different ways I’ve used it. Here are my “Fast Facts” for acrylic frames:

1. To hold a recipe when cooking.

2. To hold a quilt pattern when quilting.

3. Place a welcome letter in one for the guest room.

4. For seasonal quotes to display around the house.

5. To hold a list of do’s and don’ts in game rooms.

-- Geri N. in San Antonio


Preserving watch batteries

Dear Heloise: To keep the battery from running out when storing watches, leave the stem pulled out. This is great when you have multiple watches. - Ursula H., Lincoln, Calif.


Ursula, we have a “yea” and a “nay” from jewelers on this hint. If you do this, make sure you store the watches in a covered jewelry box to minimize dust and moisture entering the mechanism. GENTLY pull or push the stem back.

Another said it’s best not to, depending on the watch. If you can remove the battery yourself, do so.
- Heloise

Multitasking grapefruit spoon

Dear Heloise: You listed good uses for grapefruit spoons. My trusty set also is used to pluck the leaves off strawberries and to core the stem of a mushroom cap before stuffing it.

There’s a gadget for almost everything these days, but never enough space to store them. So anything that multitasks is a prize possession in my book. - G.A. Hamilton, Colorado Springs, Colo.


Dear G.A.: Yea! Even if one does not eat grapefruit, a grapefruit spoon with serrated edges is handy for all sorts of uses around the house. Love it! - Heloise

No more hammered fingers

Dear Heloise: Here’s a hint for hanging pictures: Before I hang a picture on the wall, I place the nail between the teeth of a small comb, then hammer it into the wall.

By doing this, I avoid hammered fingers or losing the nail should it fall out of my grasp. - Terri in Texas

The game of life?
August 3, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about how kids are being entertained. The reader wrote: “My concern is for the young. When my husband and I were raising our children, we spent time with them and had conversations with them. In restaurants, I’ve seen adults engaged in conversations while the younger ones are silently engaged in a handheld game. Shouldn’t they be a part of the table conversations too?

“A friend posted pictures of her grandkids in a field of bluebonnets. Her grandson was playing on his electronic toy, completely disengaged from the experience.

"My cousin and her children came to visit. After the introductory small talk, she said, ‘Now go play so we can talk.’ The children went outside, sat on the porch and pulled out their electronic games. When I asked her about it, she said it was just easier and keeps them happy! These children have a right to be in this world and be a part of it, too!” - Wanda B., via email

It’s a different age today! Electronics are part of our lives, and that’s just the way it is. Your point, though, is a good one: Try to interact with children on a one-on-one level - eye level! - Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other things to use as a bookmark:

- The corner of a used envelope.

- A sticky note.

- A folded magazine page.

- A greeting card.

- A photograph.

- Heloise


Dear Heloise: A few months back, I ordered your Coffees and Teas pamphlet, and I have to say, I’ve enjoyed many of the recipes and ideas in it. It has helped me become a connoisseur when it comes to experimenting with tastes.

Cinnamon and honey are two of my favorite flavors for adding to coffee. Have you ever tried a tablespoon of peanut butter? It takes flavored coffee to a whole new dimension. Thanks for the pamphlet!
- Yolanda D. in San Antonio

Yolanda, yes, I’ve added a teaspoon of peanut butter to a cup of hot coffee! Readers, for some delicious money-saving recipes, send for my Coffees and Teas pamphlet. You can order it online at, or send $3 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Coffee, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Great-tasting coffee shouldn’t have to come from a coffee shop. Learn to make your own; you’ll save a lot of time and money! One “new” taste I tested: pistachio (sugar-free) pudding mixes in a cup of hot tea! My husband, David, remarked, “What?” Tasted great to me! - Heloise

Thanks with a twist

Dear Heloise: When I send thank-you notes, I try to send a picture of the item in use, the clothes being worn or even what I purchased with that gift card. I get a lot of appreciative responses for doing so, and it adds a personal touch to the note. - Georgia H., Amarillo, Texas

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









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