Frustration is in the bag


Jan. 19, 2017


Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off comes from a reader whose frustrations center around the bags inside breakfast-cereal boxes.

Jim S. in Houston wrote: “One of my pet peeves is the difficulty in opening plastic bags inside boxed items such as cereal. One would think that in this technological age, someone would have figured out how to make easy-to-open bags. Do you have any solution other than scissors?"

Jim, the best solution I have is scissors, because it’s only sometimes that “the powers that be” are on your side and these bags can be easily opened. Since that’s a rarity, your best bet is a pair of scissors.
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some things you can consider making when you have skeins of leftover yarn:

- Crochet simple scarves or mittens and give to homeless shelters.

- Knit baby caps and give to hospitals for NICU (neonatal intensive-care unit) babies.

- Knit or crochet large squares or rectangles and send to animal shelters for bedding or covering.

- Make articles of clothing and place in donation boxes/stations.

- Search the web for free patterns for one-skein projects.

- Heloise

Good uses for extra skeins

Dear Readers: I just gave you some hints for using up those extra skeins of yarn, which are listed in the Fast Facts. A reader wrote in about what she does with her skeins, and since it supports the column so well, I thought I’d share it with my readers. - Heloise

“I crochet small projects and have leftover yarn. My winter project is combining the leftover skeins and making 50-by-6-inch scarves with multicolored tassels on each end and donating them to a local food pantry.

“I use simple crochet stitches, such as single and double. It keeps me busy, and someone can always use a warm scarf. A word of caution: Don’t make them with scratchy-fiber-type yarn.” - C. Duffy in Alabama

Follow-up on binder clips

Dear Readers: I’ve seen a few letters cross my desk with other ways to use binder clips. The ones below are hints I’d not considered but were great hints nonetheless. - Heloise

Mary H. in Arlington, Va., wrote: “When the ‘stand’ on my digital egg timer broke, I used a medium-size binder clip to replace it. Worked perfectly.”

Emily S. in Borger, Texas, wrote: “I read your column in the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News each day and just finished reading your hints for binder clips. I am a quilter and use them to hold the quilt top, batting and backing taut so that I can start pinning everything together before quilting.” 

Alice A. in San Antonio wrote: “I make and quilt baby quilts and pads. Instead of pinning the quilt pieces together for sewing, I roll them together and place about five large, black clips on the roll. It holds the pieces in place and allows me to free-motion quilt with ease.”

Lane selection goes down the line
Jan. 11, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about grocery-store cashiers not being considerate of people who’ve been in line waiting to check out. - Heloise

“Often when standing in line to purchase merchandise at a grocery or other store, an employee will open a new cash-register line and signal the person farthest behind me, who has been waiting the least amount of time, to come over to her newly opened line. Why do they rarely invite the person who has been waiting the longest in the nearby line to start the new line?

“I understand why they don’t if I’ve put my merchandise on the conveyor belt; then I’m stuck in my line. But often I’m standing in plain sight and have been waiting a long time, and could easily move over to the new line without making anyone back up.

“I’ve occasionally said something, with the result of being scowled at as if I’m being rude for even mentioning it.” - A Faithful Waco, Texas, Reader

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for an over-the-door plastic shoe bag:

- Put near a makeup table for shadows, lipsticks, powders, etc.

- Hang in your bedroom to separate and store jewelry.

- Put in a craft room to hold small items like spools of thread or buttons.

- Hang in the bathroom to hold toiletries.

- Put in a garage to store nuts, bolts, washers, staples, etc.

- Heloise

Chess pieces for board games

Dear Heloise: I read your column regarding gaming pieces but didn’t see ours mentioned, so I thought I’d write you and tell you what we use for any of our board games that are lacking pieces. We’ve found that small chess pieces work well. Not only is there a queen, king, knight, bishop, rook and pawn, but you also have your choice of black or white!

Twelve different pieces to choose from is plenty, even for my large family. I love reading your hints in the San Antonio Express-News, and have found many of them useful in day-to-day living. Thanks!
- Valerie R., via email

Extending magazine subscriptions

Dear Heloise: The women in our neighborhood share many things that are life-, money- and/or time-saving. One thing we do to save money and paper is swap magazines.

This gives us more to read without having to subscribe to another magazine, which helps with our family budget. An added bonus is that by sharing copies, we figure we’re saving on paper, too.

At the end of each swap, I’ve offered to gather any magazines we don’t care to keep, cut off any address labels and take them to a nearby senior-citizens community. - Blanche D., via email


Blow-drying labels

Dear Heloise: Love your column! A reader recently shared how she soaks the labels off old prescription bottles. I’m a pharmacy tech, and we get them off with a hair dryer. A few seconds of blowing and it peels right off.

This blow-drying technique works with a lot of other labels, too. - Susan, via email


Pull forward to pay it forward
Jan. 5, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound On comes from a reader who works as a morning manager at a fast-food restaurant in San Antonio. - Heloise

“It’s a different experience working the morning shift as opposed to the evening or night shifts. Morning customers seem to be much more pleasant, probably because their day’s just beginning!

“More than twice, while working the drive-thru, customers have paid for their meal but have also picked up the tab of the vehicle behind them. This action prompted the people in that vehicle to pick up the tab of the vehicle behind them, and so on and so on.

“One morning, 14 customers ‘paid it forward’ by paying for the next customer’s order. The last car in the line had no one behind him, so he graciously accepted the ‘paid in full’ gift of the previous customer.

“This simple little action keeps me believing in the niceness of people!” - Ryan A., via email

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other things you can use as gaming pieces for board games:

- tiny wads of colored sticky notes

- buttons

- pebbles or rocks

- coins

- seashells.

- Heloise

Feather-duster dilemma

Dear Heloise: I have a feather duster that’s in dire need of cleaning. I’ve tried different powders and gentle solutions, but haven’t had much success. Do you have any ideas, or should I just give it up and purchase a new one? - Frank M., via email

Frank, try cornstarch. Simply place the duster in a strong plastic or paper bag, then pour in a box of cornstarch. Hold the bag closed tight and shake hard for about 15-30 seconds. This is best done outside. Remove the feather duster from the bag and shake out until the rest of the cornstarch is removed. Some of my best cleaning solutions are in a pamphlet titled Homemade Cleaning Solutions. To get one, visit www., or send a business-size, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/ HCS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Should you decide to make any of my cleaning solutions, be sure to label your bottles appropriately, since different cleaners work on different surfaces, and you would hate to ruin a surface because you used the wrong cleaner! - Heloise

‘Tis nobody’s business

Dear Heloise: I was reading your article on removing or destroying the labels on empty medicine bottles and was curious as to why one would do that. What info can someone get off them? - Jamie H., via email

I posed this question to my office staff. Here’s what came out of the discussion: It was unanimous that it’s nobody’s business what is prescribed.

One staff member stated, “If you had meds for a ‘transmitted’ disease or were on meds for some kind of emotional disorder, would you want that information out in the open? Maybe, maybe not, but that should be your choice, not chance’s choice.” Bottom line: Better to be safe than sorry. - Heloise 

Goodbye, Christmas!
Dec. 29, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about after-Christmas decorations. The reader wrote: “I agree with Rita in Austin, Texas, who complained about stores setting up Christmas displays so early.

“She also might be interested to know that as the operation superintendent of a large chain department store, I had orders to clear out all decorations before opening for business on Dec. 26.

“So, the entire display crew plus some extras came to work at 4 a.m. to accomplish the task. Sadly, that really proved to me how commercialized we have made Christmas.” - John R., Mission Viejo, Calif.

So, to clarify: Your workers enjoyed Christmas Day with their families, knowing they needed to cut the evening short so that they could go to bed early and get up early, so that they could get to work early to take down decorations! That’s a holiday downer! Hope they were paid at least time and a half. - Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other objects to use as a pencil holder:

- A tall pill container.

- A plastic commemorative cup.

- A toothbrush holder that is sectioned.

- A clean, decorative jelly jar.

- A small terra-cotta planter.

- Heloise

And the survey said!

Dear Readers: The verdict’s in! Recently, I asked you to tell me how you felt about music in stores, and the response was unbelievable! So many of you sent in your thoughts on the subject that I could write a research paper, but I won’t!

With 250-plus letters and emails, here’s a summary of the responses:

- Eighty-eight percent of you overwhelmingly oppose the loud music. Some walk out; others won’t even walk through the door. The No. 1 response for this group: it’s nerve- wracking!

- Seven percent are OK with the music and said that it puts them in a better mood. Some even sing or hum along while shopping.

- Only 5 percent of the responders were “on the fence.” These readers can take it or leave it. Some said they’re not even aware of it until someone starts singing or humming along.

Some research suggests that stores now play music that targets a certain age group, based on its customers. - Heloise

Shredder container

Dear Readers: If you have a non-working paper shredder, consider holding on to the container. Here are just a few ways you can use it:

A reader from Huntsville, Ala., wrote in and said that because of its height, it was perfect for soaking a foot or leg.

It also can be placed between tight spaces and used as a wastebasket, an extra clothes hamper or a toy container. - Heloise


More countertop space

Dear Readers: Here’s a hint to consider if you find yourself needing a little extra countertop space in the kitchen: Try opening a drawer all the way and placing a cookie sheet in it. If possible, close the drawer until the cookie sheet fits tightly. The lip around the sheet will keep anything from going inside the drawer.
- Heloise

Christmas gift gets boxed out
Dec. 21, 2016

Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about the boxes given out at Christmastime to fill for needy children. A reader wrote: “For quite a few years now, there have been projects to gift children in need with toys at Christmas, and many use shoebox-size containers for this.

“However, it's difficult to find appropriate gifts that fit inside a shoebox (like a small basketball and hoop, or a tea set). I wish more manufacturers would take this into consideration and package more toys to fit this requirement.

“I have no problem finding smaller items, like yo-yos, jump ropes, dolls, etc., but I sure have a hard time with the 'main gift.'“ - Gigi in Colorado Springs, Colo.

I'll bet there are others who feel as you do, and to that I'd say, “It really is the thoughtfulness that counts.”
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for clean cereal bags:

- As a cookie sheet for cooling cookies.

- Place spices and meats inside to coat before grilling.

- Place crackers inside before crushing.

- Use between rows of baked items for transport.

- To block the drain when peeling vegetables, eggs, fruits, etc.

- Heloise

Flavored tea

Dear Heloise: I saw your column about flavored teas. I use loose tea and add dried orange or lemon peel. Then I add dried rose petals.

During the holidays, I add cloves and cinnamon. What keeps my teas from becoming bitter is my blend of a variety of teas with orange, calendula petals, ginger and dried mangos. I enjoy your column in The Columbian. - Annie, via email

Annie, you've just proven that making flavored tea has endless possibilities, which is why I've created a pamphlet of hints for experimenting with both coffees and teas. To get one, simply go on my website, www., and order my pamphlet titled Heloise's Flavored Coffees and Teas. Or you can send $3 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Coffee, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Flavorful coffees and teas seem to be much more popular and, therefore, enjoyable than before. - Heloise

Gaming pieces

Dear Heloise: We have game night often. Therefore, we have a variety of board games, which come with game pieces. In an effort not to lose them, I bought a tin that came with its own lid.

I placed all the pieces for each game inside its own “snack” bag, labeled it and placed it inside the tin. We bring it out every time it's game night. We've not lost a piece yet! - Sandy W. in Houston


Another soap dish

Dear Heloise: You listed some good makeshift soap dishes, but not the one I made the permanent one in my guest bathroom. I use a clear glass butter dish, which easily holds a bar of soap. I also have a pump dispenser to please everyone's taste. - Terri D., Brea, Calif.

With glass, consider placing a strip of non-adhesive shelf liner under it to keep it from slipping. - Heloise

Monarch madness!
Dec. 14, 2016

Dear Readers: Today's Sound On comes from a reader who, along with her neighborhood, is trying to make a positive impact on rebuilding the declining monarch butterfly population. She wrote:

“My neighborhood has become afflicted with 'monarch madness'! We are trying, one plant at a time, to make our 'hood' into a monarch butterfly oasis. There are several houses on each block that have milkweed plants, which provide food for the monarch caterpillars and the hatched butterflies.

“Our local hardware and garden center found out about the monarch project and offered a very nice discount on the plants.” - Karen in Oxnard, Calif.

For those who might not know, the milkweed plant is a hardy plant that is easy to grow and maintain. The blooms are colorful and provide food for many species of butterflies, as well as hummingbirds and bees.
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here is a list of other things you can use as ornament hooks:

- Paper clips

- Bread-bag ties

- Thin, decorative ribbon

- Natural jute or twine

- Large safety pins.

- Heloise

Letter of laughter

Dear Heloise: I used to be a secretary in customer service at the Naval Supply Center in San Diego. In addition to U.S. ship personnel, we received calls from personnel assigned to foreign ships visiting the area.

I always answered my phone, “Customer service, Kathy Potts.” I answered as usual one day and was greeted by silence. I could hear background noise and knew that connections were not always clear, so again I said, “Customer service, Kathy Potts.”

Someone cleared their throat on the other end of the line. I said, “Good morning, this is Kathy Potts in customer service.” A heavily accented voice on the line asked, tentatively, “Coffee pots?” I still laugh aloud when I share this story. - Kathy Potts, via email

Free gifts

Dear Heloise: A while back, David W. wrote in about putting money in library books. While that would be a nice treat to find, I would be concerned that someone had “accidentally” left it there and then would be out the money, especially if it is a large bill.

So, I would like to suggest that he put a note with the money, stating something to the fact that this is a free gift. Enjoy! - A Reader, via email

This is what I would call making an original hint even better! I'll bet many of us would do exactly as this reader and not recognize a free gift if it fell in our lap! - Heloise

Three rules for conquering stains

Dear Readers: When you are ready to conquer a stain, keep these helpful hints in mind:

1. The sooner, the better. The longer it is left on fabric, the more difficult it will be to remove.

2. Lift the stain slowly. Some stains will require time, patience and perseverance.

3. Repeat as often as necessary. Some stains require more than one attempt.

- Heloise

In search of 'free'
Dec. 7, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about evaporated-milk containers. A reader wrote: “We usually keep an open can of evaporated milk in the refrigerator for coffee, cooking, etc. 

“I don’t understand why the manufacturers don’t offer this milk in a container that you can close or seal to avoid spillage and picking up odors from the refrigerator.

“So until the manufacturers wake up, we just snap on a clean pet-food lid!” - Paul in Bella Vista, Ark.


Paul, thanks for your Sound Off, and your solution! I’ll bet others who also use this milk and have this same problem will try your hint. - Heloise


Fast Facts

Dear Heloise: In sorting all my clothes, I’ve removed dozens of shoulder pads. I know they can be used as potholders, but what else? - Jean A., Alexandria, Va.

Here are some other uses for shoulder pads:

- Washable makeup-remover pads.

- Scales for a homemade fish costume, or quilt a blanket with them.

- Eye patches at Halloween.

- Light-bulb removers.

- Heloise

Grocery-shopping etiquette

Dear Readers: Many of you were sympathetic with Yssa’s frustrations about grocery shopping, and voiced your own frustrations as well.

In theory, it’s easy to say, “Let’s be realistic” or “Who has time to plan ahead” or my favorite, “Find a different time to shop, either late at night or early in the morning, when the shelves are stocked and the shoppers are few,” but the bottom line is this: Grocery shopping can be a frustrating experience.

Other issues mentioned include the following:

- Don’t let your kids go wild pushing the shopping cart.

- Pushing the basket down the left side of the aisle impedes traffic flow.

- If you must talk on your phone, get out of the shopping aisle, especially if the call has nothing to do with shopping.

- When checking out, don’t wait until the checker has totaled your order before looking for your “payment plan.”

- If the sign says, “Twenty items or less,” that means no more than 20 items!

Don’t shoot the messenger! This list is compiled from my readers, who took the time to share their thoughts and frustrations about grocery shopping. - Heloise

Shrinking socks

Dear Readers: Recently, a reader wrote in about her socks shrinking over time, and she wanted hints on preventing this from happening. Here’s what others said:

Constance W., via email, said some companies are now making “extended” socks for larger feet. Her podiatrist also said that feet tend to “grow” because our arches gradually drop as we age.

Elizabeth W., via email, said: “Socks with spandex shrink in the dryer and stay that way. Cotton socks can be partially dried on ‘cool’ and then manually stretched and hung to dry in order to maintain size.”

Finally, a reader from Kansas said: “Stores aren’t carrying 100 percent cotton socks. Instead they are 75 percent cotton, 25 percent polyester and 2 percent spandex.” (Which, by the way, is 102 percent, but I get your point!) - Heloise

In search of 'free'
Nov. 30, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about finding phone numbers without having access to “the white pages.” (For the young readers, that’s a reference to the printed phone book! - Heloise) A reader wrote: “My Sound Off regards trying to find a phone number or address without the white pages.

“I’ve tried online search engines that claim to be FREE, but after they compile what amounts to a dossier on the person whose number and address are the only things you need, up pops a screen with prices for a subscription with the company.

“How do these companies get away with saying something is FREE, then expect you to pay for the service?”
- Lynda D. in San Antonio

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other ways that binder clips can be used:

- Clip to calendars and hang on the nail instead of the hole on the pages.

- To keep draperies or curtains closed.

- To keep pants, skirts and/or tank tops from slipping off hangers.

- To keep the rolled part of your toothpaste tube from unrolling.

- To seal the opening of chip, candy, cracker, etc., bags.

- Heloise

Off-limits Update

Dear Readers: Back in July, I posted a Sound Off from a young lady who bought an “engagement” ring for her fiancé.

A wise, sympathetic reader wrote: “My husband of 43 years stopped wearing his wedding ring shortly after we were married because the type of work he did almost caused him to lose a finger. It’s never bothered me.

“Just remember, someone will cheat no matter what. In this day and age, I don’t really think seeing a ring on someone’s finger stops many people.” - J.K., via email

The commitment is in the bond you have with your life partner, with or without a ring. - Heloise


Bacteria on sponges

Dear Heloise: I read that to remove bacteria from kitchen sponges, you should dampen with water and then stick them in the microwave on high for about 30-60 seconds. Does this really work?
- Georgia H. in San Antonio

Georgia, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) found that two effective ways to sterilize sponges are in the microwave and in a dishwasher that has a water-temperature-boost feature and a heated drying cycle.

Be sure the sponges are damp before sticking them in the microwave, and be careful when done. They will be EXTREMELY HOT!
- Heloise


Shaving with shampoo

Dear Heloise: Here’s a hint I stumbled upon quite by accident. One day, I lathered my beard with a little shampoo before applying my shaving cream. The shave seemed to be better!
- James F. in San Francisco

James, you stumbled on a longtime Heloise hint. Many women do the same when shaving legs. Sure can’t hurt.
- Heloise

That's a holiday wrap!
Nov. 17, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about holiday plates: “Why can’t manufacturers make a nice variety of square and rectangular holiday plates for goodies? Have you ever tried to put foil or plastic around a large circular plate? It never fits!” - Barbara C. in Montana

Barbara, it’s a little bothersome and somewhat frustrating. Here is a hint: Rather than putting the wrap over the food, then tucking it UNDER the plate, place the wrap UNDER the plate (put several pieces on the counter, “fanned out” in a circle) and pull the wrap UP over the food. Twist to seal, or close with a twist-tie. Thanks to my husband, David, for showing me this hint! - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for cotton swabs:

- Use to dip into a lipstick tube to get the last bit!

- Dip in rubbing alcohol and clean around yucky computer keys.

- For knickknacks, to clean small areas.

- For a small paint touch-up.

- Remove nail polish from cuticles.

- Heloise


Iron the wax

Dear Heloise: To get candle wax off my carpet, I placed a paper towel on top of the wax and ironed it very lightly with an iron on the lowest heat setting. I repeated this process until no more wax appeared on the paper towel. This process lifted all the wax off the carpet. - Dora G., via email

Dora, just remember that before taking an iron to spilled wax on carpet, the wax must be DRY AND COOL first. - Heloise


Denver Brew Sauce

Dear Heloise: I seem to remember you had a marinade/barbecue sauce recipe that uses dark beer. It was really tasty and different. Can you please find it for me? - Virginia M. in Houston

Yes, I do! It does have a “kick” to it, and is easy to make. Here it is:

Heloise’s Denver Brew Sauce/Marinade

1 cup dark beer

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Whisk all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Use as is right away, or put into a lidded jar or bottle, then store in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to seven days. For more delicious sauces and marinades, including many family recipes, order my Seasonings, Sauces and Substitutes pamphlet. Please visit www., or send $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope to:

Heloise/SSS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.

Meat that has been marinated tastes better than simply seasoning it before grilling or cooking. Once you make this one, next time make it your own by adding different ingredients! - Heloise

Calling for some human interaction
Nov. 10, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about customers on cellphones. The reader wrote: “I work in retail sales. Some customers bring their merchandise for checkout and continue to talk on their cellphone. It’s difficult sometimes to complete the sale as quickly as possible. The people in line behind the customer give me a look!” - Anonymous, via email

Dear Anonymous: It seems we use cellphones everywhere! Unless it’s an emergency, the customer should take a few minutes to pay attention to the transaction. Why not have a human, face-to-face encounter? Salespeople work very hard and deserve to be acknowledged.

Readers, what say you? - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Other ways to use hair conditioner:

- Put into nails as a cuticle conditioner.

- To loosen a ring stuck on one’s finger.

- As shaving cream for smooth skin.

- To keep outdoor tools from rusting.

- Before changing a car’s oil, rub on hands for easier cleanup.

- Heloise

Icing recipe

Dear Heloise: Do you have a good recipe for icing that you can pass my way? I prefer to make my cakes from scratch, so when I put store-bought frosting on it, I feel like I’m taking away the “from scratch” factor!
 - Wanda N., via email

Sure do, and it’s called Old-Fashioned Icing. You will need the following:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

2/3 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Cream the butter, shortening and sugar until it’s not grainy. Add flour, one spoonful at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, beat, then add vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Turn mixer on high and beat for 12 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. I have many family and friends’ recipes and baking hints in my pamphlet. It also includes some of my mother’s favorite recipes that you will find very tasty. To order a copy of Heloise’s Cake Recipes pamphlet, visit my website,, or send $3 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/ Cake Recipes, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Baked goods, especially those that are homemade, are always a hit. Glad I could help you with your icing! - Heloise

Removing labels

Dear Heloise: Please remind your readers that it’s important to remove the information from empty medicine bottles before disposing of them. Thankfully, pharmacies seem to be making an attempt to help by leaving a tab that can be pulled, thus destroying the label.

If there’s not a tab, I place liquid dish detergent on the label (a very small amount). I hold the label under warm water, rinsing and scrubbing it until it is no longer readable. The label will still be on the bottle, but no information. - Rose T., via email

Good hint, and here is another way: Rub the label with an emery board. - Heloise

The end of one-stop shopping?
Nov. 3, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about shopping, and multiple letters came in about this:

A reader in Columbus, Ohio, wrote, "To get the most value for my shopping dollars, I have to shop at several grocery stores.”

A Texas reader wrote: “Whenever I shop, I make a list and then shop at three different stores to get everything on the list. One large chain store is my favorite, but it doesn’t carry everything I need, so I complete the list at the other two stores. I think I’m going to try online shopping very soon.”

But then Rosemary Q.W., via email, said, “If everyone continues to shop online, eventually we will have no local stores, which equals empty storefronts and more unemployment.”

So, what’s your take? Which reader can you identify with? Send me your thoughts.
- Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here is a list of other places a bar stool could come in handy besides under your kitchen island:

- In a craft room under your sewing or cutting table.

- In the bathroom for young ones to sit on as you help them get ready for the day.

- In a game room for gamers.

- A lower stool for under your vanity mirror and as an extra seat in the bedroom.

- As a work stool when working in the garage at a table or flat surface.

- Heloise

Another use for binder clips

Dear Heloise: If you have a computer keyboard with a missing foot or two, take a medium-size binder clip and divide it into three parts. Replace the keyboard legs with the wire parts of the binder clip.

This will give the computer keyboard a bit more height than the original feet gave it. I find it easier to type on the computer keyboard with the added height. - Mary, via email

I tried this hint on two different keyboards in my office, and a staff member tried it on her computer boards at home. We couldn’t get the height you mentioned. Help me out, readers. What are we missing here?
- Heloise

New lid is not a snap
Oct. 27, 2016

Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the new lids that are on margarine containers. Linda wrote: “My Sound Off is about the new lids manufacturers are placing on margarine containers.

"They won’t stay on the margarine, and the product takes on odors from the fridge. I have called several manufacturers. They are nice enough but offer no solution. Give me back my snap-on lid! Thank you.”
- Linda, Frustrated in Louisiana

New designs are supposed to make things better. Maybe this new lid is easier to open but more difficult to seal. Manufacturers will listen if enough people call in with their concerns. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here are some other uses for ice cubes:

- To water hanging plants and Christmas trees.

- To remove dents in the carpet made from recently moved furniture.

- Place inside a soft cloth and rub it over a wrinkle before ironing.

- Place in pet bowls for cool water on hot days.

- To mask the taste of medicine, suck on an ice cube to numb the taste buds.

- Heloise

Flavored tea

Dear Heloise: I’ve seen more and more “tea” shops springing up in our malls and stores, and I have to ask, “What’s up with that?” I drink tea, and to me, this is a drink that is so easy to be creative with that you can try almost anything to creatively enhance the flavor. Can you give me other ideas for special tea flavors? I love to experiment with flavors, and will try almost anything at least once! - Tory D. in Houston

If you haven’t done this yet, try adding candy, like peppermint sticks, lemon drops or even a couple of red-hot cinnamon candies. For a comprehensive list, along with facts, methods, instructions and hints, you can go on my website,, and order my pamphlet titled Heloise’s Flavored Coffees and Teas. Or you can send $3 and a stamped (68 cents), self-addressed, business-size envelope to: Heloise/Coffee, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Great-tasting tea shouldn’t have to come from tea shops. Learn to make your own flavorful teas, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money! - Heloise


Dear Readers: We recently wrote about other uses for bedsheets, and readers wrote in to tell me how they use them. These responses were sent via email:

Marta W. said she drapes them over newly budded shrubs or plants if a frost is predicted for the overnight hours, then removes them in the morning to let the sun shine on them.

Sherry G. carries sheets in her car in case an animal gets injured. She will use the bedsheet to carry the injured animal to wherever it needs to go. She handed an injured dog to its owner, bedsheet and all, so that he could take the dog home in its weakened condition.

And finally, Anita B. said that local animal shelters love to get all sorts of bedding, bath towels and throw rugs (without rubber backing). - Heloise

Watch what you spray
Oct. 21, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is from a reader complaining about aerosol sunblock. She said: “My pet peeve is people who spray aerosol sunblock without noting the wind and who might get a faceful when they spray it. At a recent trip to the beach, I received a faceful of it several times when the wind blew it my way. My daughter, who has asthma, is unable to breathe when many aerosols are sprayed.

“Please ask your readers to be kind to others and be aware of the breeze when spraying aerosol of any kind outdoors. It could end up in someone’s eyes, mouth or all over the food they’re eating.”
- Betty, via email

A solution to the problem could be to have people hold a large towel behind them and then in front of them (like wings) while getting sprayed. That could eliminate some aerosols from being airborne. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Here is a list of a few natural exfoliators you can use instead of commercial ones:

- oatmeal

- baking soda

- coffee

- sea salt

- sugar.

You might ask, “Why go natural when commercial is easy to buy and comes in a variety of choices?” Research shows that many of these products contain microbeads, which are terrible for the environment. These small, plastic beads don’t biodegrade, and they are being washed into our water supply. Reason enough for me!

- Heloise

Letter of laughter - baking soda to the rescue

Dear Heloise: I thought you might enjoy a baking-soda story. One Saturday morning, my husband was out doing some work on his pickup while my neighbor and I were inside enjoying a cup of coffee.

After a little while, my husband came leisurely strolling in the back door and said to me, “Mama, would you get me a box of soda, please?” I just said: “Why? What are you going to do with it?” He replied, “Well, I just need some out there.”

After a couple of more questions and answers, he began to lose patience, and finally said: “DARN IT! MY TRUCK’S ON FIRE!” At that point, I got up and got him the soda. He used it on the fire, and the truck was fine. - Jeanne J., San Angelo, Texas

Less paper-towel usage

Dear Heloise: Here’s a hint I use to save on paper towels: Place a paper towel on top of several sheets of newspaper, then place fried meats or veggies on the paper towel to absorb a lot of grease without using more than one or two paper towels. Saves money and paper towels. 

I also do the same after frying bacon in the microwave. Then I just toss all of the old papers in the trash.

- Donna W., via email

Easy grip for bags

Dear Heloise: My husband cut an old garden hose into pieces that I can use to protect my fingers when carrying grocery bags. Works great! - Harriet B., via email

Cart Courtesy
Oct. 13, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about shopping carts. A reader wrote: “It’s always very busy when I grocery-shop. The last thing I want to do is wait for people to decide which item they are going to buy while their shopping cart is either on the opposite side of them or, worse yet, in the middle of the aisle, blocking both sides of the traffic flow.

“Is it too much to expect people to keep their cart in front of them?

“Plan ahead, find what you need, grab it and go, and keep that cart right in front of you. Just this little consideration would make some people’s shopping experience so much nicer.” - Yssa W., via email

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Place mats can get pretty pricey. Here’s a list of other things you can use as place mats:

* A vinyl tablecloth cut into shapes of your choice.

* Quilted squares reinforced with backing sewn onto it.

* Children’s artwork, laminated.

* Floor laminate.

- Heloise


Letter of laughter: Do you have T-I-M-E?

Dear Heloise: One day while following a recipe, I discovered I was out of thyme, so I went next door and asked my neighbor, “Do you have any thyme?” She said “yes” and proceeded to invite me to sit down.

After about 15 minutes of chitchat, I said I had to leave to finish my cooking, so if she had the thyme, I should get it and get going. Upon seeing a puzzled look on her face, I think we both realized that she was thinking “t-i-m-e.” - Mary W. in Missouri

Creative gift-giving

Dear Heloise: I read in the Orange County (Calif.) Register what Beatrice S. wrote about how she gives monetary gifts to graduates. For years, I’ve been doing something similar with my faraway grandchildren.

Beginning when they were small, I would send a check for twice or three times (no four times yet) their age at that birthday, telling them that for me they’re worth that much. For them it’s been a source of fun to expect a check from Grandpa for an odd amount, like $63 when they turned 21 years young.
- A Happy Grandpa, Irvine, Calif.

How lucky the kids are to have you, Grandpa! It’s a nice positive reinforcement. - Heloise

Expired chocolate?

Dear Heloise: I bought a box of chocolates from a “closeout store.” However, the chocolate looks gray, and I don’t know if it’s still good to eat. - James, via email

Enjoy that chocolate without worry! The grayish color is called “bloom,” and it occurs when the cocoa butter in the chocolate rises to the top. This usually happens when the candy is stored in a warm or humid area. It doesn’t affect the candy in any way, except for the change in appearance. - Heloise

Too soon for holiday decorations
Oct. 6, 2016

Dear Readers: Today’s Sound Off is about the early holiday decorations already up in many stores. A reader wrote: “We are barely out of ‘Back to School’ sales, and already stores are setting up for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas! What’s up with that?

“Why can’t these stores let us breathe a little bit before the holiday rushes begin? These stores put out so many decorations that I dread going in to shop. It’s just too much, too soon.” - Rita T., Austin, Texas

Rita, you do make a valid complaint, as I’ve heard many people lament about this same issue. But let me give you another perspective to consider.

Many of these stores are generally craft stores or have sections devoted to crafting. People who make things to sell before the holidays or to give as gifts during the holidays need to get a head start on their projects. These stores “bank” on crafters buying their supplies from them. - Heloise

Fast Facts

Dear Readers: Don’t throw out those cute little baby hairbrushes. Here are some other uses for them:

* To clean the fuzz off mushroom heads.

* As a gentle facial exfoliator.

* To clean dryer lint screens.

* Put under a bar of soap to keep it from getting slimy.

* As a scrubber to get dirt out from under your nails.

- Heloise

Underarm stains and odors

Dear Readers: Recently, we had a question about underarm stains. Here’s yet another hint on how to remove them:

“Dear Heloise: My husband wears old white T-shirts when working outside. They can get pretty nasty, especially during the summer months in Texas. The armpits are the worst, and I can’t seem to get the stains out as well as I’d like to. I’d appreciate any ideas you might have on dealing with this laundry problem?” - Vicky R. in San Antonio

Vicky, sweat and odor stains can be removed easily enough. Turn the shirts inside out and place inside a sink or large bowl. Pour full-strength household vinegar and allow to soak for 30 minutes or so, then wash as normal. For more hints on how you can use vinegar around the house, I’ve created a pamphlet just for this acidic liquid. To order a copy, visit, or send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Vinegar is safe to use over and over again, so treating his shirts as often as needed will be OK. - Heloise

Scented soaps

Dear Heloise: I use liquid soap in my kitchen and bathroom, but I still like the smell of some of the bar soaps you can find at trade and craft shows. Sometimes I just can’t help buying some. When I do, I place them inside my clothes drawers, still sealed in their paper packaging. Eventually my clothes take on a faint scent from the soap, which I love. The one I have in my sock drawer has been there for three years, and it is still going strong! - Allison B. in Houston

Stop the music!
Sept. 28, 2016

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

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

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









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