Conveying a germ concern


July 2, 2015


Dear readers: Here is this week's SOUND OFF, about food conveyor belts at grocery stores:

“My Sound Off is about grocery stores encouraging me to put the small plastic basket on the conveyor to unload my groceries. My concern is the unsanitary practice this is. The baskets have been on the floor, thereby potentially transferring filth and germs to the same surface that food items are placed on. We live in a ranching community - use your imagination as to where shoes and boots might have been!”
- Donna in Greycliff, Mont.

No need to think much to guess where that footwear may have been. However, the conveyor belt itself is not the cleanest, either. Most food is packaged, and we are taught to rinse fruit and veggies before eating. That said, simply tell the checker you want to leave it in the basket. - Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are other uses for a coin purse:

* Make a mini sewing kit and store inside it.

* Store extra buttons in one.

* Make a mini first-aid kit with it.

* Keep extra bobby pins or hair clips in one.

* Store business cards in one.

- Heloise


No-slip sheet

Dear Heloise: I, too, was frustrated with the top sheet coming untucked. So I came up with a solution. All you need is an old pair of rubber flip-flops. Simply tie a corner of the sheet to the toe strap of the flip-flop and slide it under the corner of the mattress. Do the same on the other corner. It works great!
- Regina, via email

Brilliant! I love it, and you for sharing. I have “satin” sheets (on my side of the bed), and I've done just about everything! - Heloise


Writing supplies

Dear Heloise: When my brother deployed, we wanted to keep in touch with him. The first care package I sent included a box of envelopes (several pre-addressed to me), a package of paper and pens, also a sheet with the addresses of friends and family he might want to write. I sent it to him by email, but wanted a “backup,” just in case. He wrote notes to Mom and Dad, and to me. He said how much a real letter (on paper) meant to him. Email is great, but it's just not the same as seeing an envelope.
- Chrissy in Arlington, Va.

Chrissy, when I sent care packages, I included paper airplanes, jacks and playing cards. I saved weeks of the comics from the newspaper to “stuff” the box. Don't forget the fun things. - Hugs, Heloise


Pill protector

Dear Heloise: I used a hint about carrying a small supply of daily medication in your purse in case you forget to take it. I used a weekly pill divider. The problem is the pills rattle and make noise in my purse. I had an extra-soft eyeglass case and slipped the pill divider into it to muffle the sound. - Ingrid in Florida

Why Do These Things Rust?

June 24, 2015

Dear Readers: Here is this week's SOUND OFF, about items rusting:

"My Sound Off is about things that are supposed to get wet, but when they do, they get rust. I've enclosed a photo. (Heloise here: The photo shows a string mop, with a metal ring about a third of the way down. Rust city!) I have rust on my bathroom basin and washing machine. Whoever made these products, didn't they know they would get wet?" -- Kathleen H., Camp Hill, Pa.


 Kathleen, I am as outraged as you. Call the manufacturers right now! This is absolutely ridiculous! The metal ring around the mop is rusting? Huh? SHAME! Fight back. Call the manufacturer; take the mop back to the store. DON'T buy that brand again. -- Heloise

 Dear Readers: Other items to use as a jewelry stand:

* A coffee-mug holder.

* A cupcake stand.

* A large frame with a screen in it.

* A corkboard with decorative thumbtacks.

* A small branch from a dead tree.

  I love the last hint! Eco-friendly, unique and simple to do. Give me a can of spray paint, red or black, for my bathroom (blue for the guest bath) and I'm ready to create. Oh yes, don't like the way the color turned out? Just spray over it with a new one. How simple, cheap and fun! -- Heloise


Dear Readers: As usual, you came through with wonderful hints for Carolyn from Texas. She had a spoon collection, many from her 30 years of teaching school.

Rita in Idaho wrote: "She can make wind chimes, rings or napkin rings with them. She also can top a kitchen gift as an ornament, or attach them to a wreath."

S. Kangas in Philip, S.D., wrote: "My daughter received several from her grandmother, and she used ornament hooks to put the little spoons on her Christmas tree. She thought of her grandmother every time she looked at the tree."

Stacy in New Hampshire suggested: "Why not use her spoons as handles on her drawers, cabinets and other 'handles' throughout the house? This way she can revisit her travels every time she opens something." Heloise here: Love this! Talk about happy memories every time you see or open a cabinet.

Catharine in Connecticut wrote: "Buy a glass-top table, coffee table or end table, and use a mounting underneath. Place them there with some soft lighting -- what a conversation piece."

 Keep sharing your hints, folks! -- Hugs, Heloise



Dear Heloise: Don't throw away that old iron and ironing board! Keep them for crafting. I needed a new iron (the old one worked, but was beat up and dingy). I use the old one as my crafting iron. This way, the new one doesn't get gunked up when I work on my sewing projects. Iron-on patches, fusible webbing, etc., can gunk up an iron pretty quickly! -- Terry B., via email

Leave alone the dogs of work

June 18, 2015

Dear Readers: Here is this week’s SOUND OFF, about service dogs:

“My wife has a cute little (38 pounds) miniature schnauzer mix. This dog alerts her to low blood sugar and does several other things for her. My area of concern is those adults who feel they have to pet this dog. Roy (the wonder dog) wears a vest in public with patches that state he is a ’’service dog’ and ‘please don’t pet me, I’m working.’ Yet people just have to reach out and touch him.

“I was brought up that you never touch another person’s dog without asking! People, please read the vest and ask permission to touch/pet, and if permission is not granted, don’t get upset.”
- Pete S., Fredericksburg, Va.

Give Roy a pet from me, with your permission, of course! I’ve written about this for years! It’s tempting, folks, but PLEASE ask before even approaching. Service dogs are in WORK MODE, and that means they protect and take care of their person. Don’t distract service dogs, no matter how adorable they are. Would you want to be “petted” while you are driving in heavy traffic? - Heloise


Fast facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for clean foam takeout containers:

* As a paint tray.

* Store leftovers.

* Start seedlings.

* As packing material.

* Use in arts and crafts.

- Heloise


Itchy insect bites

Dear Heloise: You printed a hint about using baking soda for minor insect bites. We always have a box in our camping gear, and one when we go to the beach. We used it once for a sting from a jellyfish someone stepped on. - Tom A., Clearwater, Fla.

Tom, baking soda is super for little insect bites. Please note: For jellyfish, DO NOT rinse with tap water. Make a paste of seawater and baking soda, pat it on the site and let sit. Then rinse with seawater. Baking soda is a miracle product that can be used for so many different purposes. Want to know what else I use it for? Order my baking-soda pamphlet. Go to my website,, or send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. A little itchy after gardening? Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your bath to soothe your skin.
- Heloise


Dog bed

Dear Heloise: I have beautiful Labrador retriever, Buddy, who is 6 years old and 105 pounds, and still gets into mischief. I purchased several dog beds, only to find them ripped to shreds. I have a 5- by 7-foot throw rug and place it on top of a foam bed. He finally just lies on it without destroying it. - Sandra S., via email


Pine cones

Dear Heloise: I have big pine cones that I lay in potted plants. It discourages our cats from playing in them. When I “water” the cones thoroughly when watering the plant, they close up when wet. When they open up, I know it’s time to water. - Marilyn G., Conway, Ark.

People ponder pill packs

June 11, 2015

Dear Readers: Wow, those annoying “BLISTER PACKS” of pills are really causing blisters! So many responded to the Sound Off about medication in the blister packs! Most emails and letters shared hints on how to get the medication out. Some suggestions were: Carol B., a seam ripper; Bayne P., scissors; Susan G., a dental hook; and Lynnette, a letter opener. One reader, Jeanine R., said the pharmacy will repackage the pills if asked.

The following letter is from Jack B., who shed some light on the subject from the other side of the counter - the manufacturer. I had to edit for space, but the message is still clear:

“I worked in the pharmaceutical industry until my retirement. Making packaging easy to open, especially for the elderly or those with arthritis, has always been an issue. This kind of packaging is actually more expensive than putting the meds in a bottle. So why do the drug companies do it? There are several reasons: 1. Some meds degrade faster than others, and keeping them hermetically sealed until they are opened ensures their potency. 2. Individually packaged meds make it easier for users to see if they have taken their dose each day. 3. As you stated in your response, individually packaged meds are virtually childproof. It’s a fine balance to achieve these goals and still make the meds easy to get out. It is a nuisance, but I think that the benefits outweigh any inconvenience.”

Jack, thank you for the confirmation and your insight! It makes a lot more sense now why companies put the medicines in these packages. We still may not like it, but we can at least understand the situation. Two other readers shared good points:

From Joyce: “When my mom went into assisted living, the meds were required to be in blister packs. The staff administers the pills, and all remaining pills must be accounted for. Counting the blisters is more sanitary and efficient.”

From Kay: “I cut the packs into strips, with seven pills in each strip, and then use these as a ‘weekly’ amount. I can see if I’ve taken them all by just counting Monday-Sunday.”

- Heloise

P.S.: Keep pills in ANY container, pillbox or blister pack OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN! Don’t keep them on the kitchen table or counter if small children are around.



Dear Readers: Here are other uses for a magazine holder:

* Use it to store plastic wrap, aluminum foil, etc., in the kitchen.

* Keep flat irons, curling irons, etc., in one.

* Put extra rolls of toilet paper in one if it is wide enough.

* Keep children’s artwork in one.

* Put in a pantry as a place to store canned goods.

- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I was brushing my teeth after drinking coffee when I noticed how stained my cup was from coffee. I put a dab of toothpaste on a paper towel and cleaned the cup. It came out sparkling clean!
- A.H., via email

Cans don’t measure up

June 4, 2015

Dear Readers: Here is this week’s SOUND OFF, about the downsizing of canned products:

"I have a Sound Off: the downsizing of canned foods, especially cream soups. The smaller sizes mess up a lot of recipes I use them in. I usually double the recipes and have been adding another can of soup, which makes things a little more soupy than they should be.”

- Beverly in Little Rock, Ark.

Beverly, the can size (or volume) has shrunk through the years. Are you using an old recipe? If you are doubling the ingredients to make two batches, the smaller size should make it less soupy rather than more. Most call for condensed soup. If you are using the regular soup, then yes, it’s probably going to be soupy. Readers, can anyone help Beverly?

- Heloise


Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are other uses for fabric scraps:

* Tie around a circular form and make a wreath.

* Cut up and use as stuffing for a pillow.

* Cover buttons or pushpins.

* Make gift tags or bookmarks.

* Use to make a patchwork throw.

- Heloise


Rust begone!

Dear Heloise: What would you suggest is the best way to clean rust off a wrought-iron garden piece? It’s too big to dip or soak. If I sand it down, can I just cover it with a rust-preventing product? Won’t the rust just come back?

- L. Vela, via email

Sounds like you are thinking in the right direction! Rust is not just an ugly sight, it’s the metal being dissolved. Do sand down as much as you can without harming the piece. Next, vinegar to the rescue! You will need a lot, so buy a gallon or two of plain old white or apple-cider vinegar.

Next, place some old towels or a lot of paper towels over the rust spots, pour on the vinegar and let it soak. Check once in a while, and when you see the rust coming up on the towels, pour on more vinegar! Keep at it until you have removed as much as possible.

Hose down the garden piece. Let dry, and you should be ready to paint with a paint that inhibits rust. Vinegar can work wonders on a lot of household problems. Want to find other solutions with this one simple bottle? Order my pamphlet to find out what else you can do with vinegar.

To receive, go to my website,, or send $5 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Vinegar, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.

Have a rusty padlock that no longer opens? Soak it in some vinegar to get it working again.

- Heloise


Careful for coupons

Dear Heloise: Don’t forget to check the back of your receipts! Stores often print coupons on the back of receipts for their store or other stores. Coupons are a great way to save money and stretch your budget!

- G.N. in Texas

Stop Before You Go

May 28, 2015

Dear Heloise: If you are going to stop your newspapers and mail for a vacation, use the “stop date” as the day BEFORE you leave. That way, you can be sure the stop order went through. I can’t tell you how many times the stops did NOT occur on the day I had selected.

Love your column. I read it in the Orange County (Calif.) Register. This is the second hint I have sent to you. The first was published years ago!

-  Gayle P., via email

Gayle, thanks for the good advice and for being a longtime reader. If possible, ask a neighbor or friend to drive by your home while you are gone and pick up any papers or fliers that are in the driveway. A few days of piled-up newspapers in a driveway is a clear indication to burglars that no one is home.

-  Hugs, Heloise


No water necessary

Dear Heloise: I read (and love) your column in our paper and am responding to the hint about keeping a bottle of water handy for rinsing the liquid-detergent bottle cap. My hint is to rinse the bottle cap in the water that is filling the washing machine. No extra water needed!

-  Irene in Lansing, Ill.

Here is another hint I use: Just toss the cap (it’s plastic) into the washer along with the laundry.

- Heloise


Shredded paper

Dear Heloise: Many people use shredders at home to safely get rid of personal information. My attempts at using this material as mulch have not been very successful. Do you have hints for recycling this paper so it does not go into landfills?

-  Robert S., via email

Sure do, and thank you for asking:

* As packing material when sending packages.

* In a cat-litter box (especially after a cat has had surgery or been declawed).

* Before mulching an area, layer with shredded paper and then wet thoroughly.

* Recycle shredded materials in the paper recycling bin along with newspapers.

-  Heloise


Screen saver

Dear Heloise: My screen door leads to the patio and is opened and closed frequently. Sometimes I leave it open, but when I close it, because the screen is so fine, I run into it. I’m concerned this will loosen the screen from the frame. I put a 2-inch piece of tape, eye level, on the screen. Now no more worry about hurting the screen door.

-  Dorothy B., Paso Robles, Calif.

Ouch! That can hurt you, too! I’ve used a pretty butterfly decal as a warning sign on our screen door.

-  Heloise


Keeping shoes tied

Dear Heloise: I learned this hint about tying shoes from my neighbor: When you make the bow, just loop the second “rabbit ear” under twice, and the shoe will stay tied until you pull the ends to untie them. Your column I read today reminded me to share the simple things that make life easier.

-  Jo-Ann F. in San Antonio

Bad Ads Make Viewer Mad

May 21, 2015

Dear Readers: Here is this week’s SOUND OFF, about television programming and commercials:

“In TV commercials, why is bad behavior being flaunted? Children destroying car paint, jumping on an open dishwasher door, jumping on beds, etc. The children get a grin and a pat on the head like it is OK.”

- Wynell M., San Angelo, Texas

How right you are! I see a few like you mentioned and think, “Hey, those parents are going to really have trouble later on.” You can write to complain to the advertiser. Don’t know if it will help, but it might if enough people do it. If you see bad behavior while watching the commercial with children, maybe point out that it is just silly TV, and that is NOT how we behave. - Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for DVD cases:

* Put a pad of paper on one side and place coupons inside for shopping.

* Download videos or pictures to a CD and hand out to family.

* Carry photos in so they don’t get bent.

* Use as a practice writing surface for kids with a dry-erase marker.

- Heloise


Carts in handicapped spaces

Dear Heloise: I sympathize with the lady who uses carts left in the handicapped spaces to replace her walker. But people need to keep in mind that the handicapped spaces are for wheelchairs exiting vehicles.

When the lift is deployed and is blocked by a shopping cart, the driver cannot exit the vehicle, thus negating the reason for the extra space. Perhaps a smaller cart return specifically for the handicapped area would make it easier for those who use the handicapped spaces to return their carts. Also, anyone who wishes to pick up a cart on the way into the store can do so.

- D.S.M., Springfield, Ill.

Thank you for the good reminder! Sometimes we think we know what’s best, until we learn the other point of view. Having been on crutches and a cane for many, many months (from a motorcycle wreck where a car hit me!), I know the difficulties getting around. Getting in and out of the car was, well, a pain!

- Heloise


Sticking drawers

Dear Heloise: We have an old dresser, and the drawers don’t move smoothly. Do you have a remedy for this?

- Ida F., via email

Absolutely, and it’s easy to remedy. If the runners are metal, simply spray a little lubricating oil on them. Then open and close the drawer several times to get good coverage. Do not use cooking spray in a can - it will make the slides sticky over time.

If it’s wood on wood, don’t use oil! Use an old candle, and rub the wax on both the drawer slides and inside the dresser.

- Heloise


Planning ahead

Dear Heloise: When we go on a family outing, we always talk about where we will meet in case one of us gets separated.

- Loren M., Reno Nev.

Some ATMs are loudmouths

May 13, 2015

Dear Readers: Here is this week’s SOUND ON, about ATMs:

“I like ATMs that don’t sound out the amount of money you are getting and instead just spit it all out at once. It is a safety issue for me. You never know who is nearby. If they hear the machine spitting out 10 $20 bills, they know that you now have a bunch of cash on you.”

- I.G., via email

It is important to be safe when using an ATM, and this certainly is a consideration.

Guess it’s time to scout out the machines that don’t announce how much money you are getting! You can put your hand over the speaker to muffle the sound, if needed.



Fast facts

Dear Readers: One-time projects to spiff up the house:

* Buy hangers for water hoses.

* Clean or paint the front door.

* Replace hardware on kitchen cabinets.

* Get a new mailbox.

* Buy new pillows for the couch.



Caregiver helper

Dear Heloise: I was the caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient. A co-worker’s father-in-law (also an Alzheimer’s patient) decided he would drive and took the car out. He was later found out of gas at the side of the road. I took my friend to the hardware store and had the car key remade to look the same, but just not work.

- Jane T., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Jane, thankfully it turned out all right and he was not hurt. It is very difficult to deal with loved ones in situations like this. The most important issue is keeping them safe! This is one way to circumvent the potential problem without having to take the keys or sell the car, which can be hard on both parties.

-Hugs, Heloise


Transferring flour

Dear Readers: Why make a mess when transferring flour when you don’t need to? Here are just a few of the many hints you sent, responding to our Sound Off:

From Melanie T. in New Orleans: “My solution is simple: Lift a corner and use scissors to cut it off. You now have a spout to pour flour, sugar, cornmeal or coffee without spilling a drop. If you don’t empty the bag, just fold the corner back, roll down the bag and put a rubber band around it to keep it sealed. Thanks for the great column.”

From Ruth M., via email: “Here’s what I do: I place the container on a paper towel. If any spills, I just pick up the paper towel and dump back into the container. No waste or mess!”

I just plop the bag into a large zip bag!



Save money

Dear Heloise: Once you have one of those lightweight mops with the disposable cloths, why waste money buying the new cloths? I use an old/stained washcloth. It holds water and cleaning solution better anyway. Just toss it in the washer and reuse.

-Bonny S., Summerfield, Fla.

Automatic Irritation

May 7, 2015

Dear Readers: Here is this week’s Sound Off, about irons:

“You wrote about the problem of irons not getting hot enough to iron clothes well. I agree, but the frustrating feature is the auto shut-off! When sewing, by the time I go to press a seam, the iron has shut off, and I have to wait for it to heat up again. There should be a way to override this feature for people who sew.”

- Lillie in Chandler, Texas

Lillie, it can be a hassle, especially when working on a project that requires using the iron a lot. I’m with you on this. When I’m on a sewing spree, to have to keep turning on the iron for just a quick press of a seam gets to be very, very annoying.

The good news is, there are irons available that do not have an automatic shut-off.

Call a fabric store or get on the Internet, and the “iron- of your dreams is waiting for you! Keep on sewing!

- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear readers: Other uses for hand sanitizer:

* Clean the nose rests on glasses.

* Disinfect a shopping-cart handle.

* Smooth your hair in a pinch.

* Help relieve the itch of insect bites.

* Clean a remote control.

- Heloise


Hardwood help

Dear Heloise: I heard we can use vinegar and water to clean wood and engineered hardwood floors. But I have no idea what the recipe is for this type of cleaner. Can you please help?

- Pam E., via email

Pam, that’s what I’m here for. The answer is both yes and no. Some wood that you may slightly “damp” mop will do just fine with a little vinegar (half a cup or so to a mop bucket) added to water.

Many “engineered hardwood floors” are, in fact, well, not like real wood. The hint to keep in mind is to “clean” the flooring more often and prevent a big buildup of dust and dirt. Overwetting, or letting a solution sit on the flooring, is where the problem arises. As much as I love vinegar, I’m not sure it adds much to the cleaning process. A cup of 5 percent vinegar in a gallon of water is a darn weak strength.

Yes, I know, I’ve heard from “experts”: “Oh, but Heloise, it’s acid!” The idea that this negligible amount of “acid” vinegar solution would “eat away” the finish is a weak argument, in my mind. Do a Heloise test and damp-mop half of the floor with just water, half with the vinegar-and-water solution. Result? You tell me!

- Heloise


Air out

Dear Heloise: Garbage cans stink! When I bring in my trash can after garbage pickup, I leave the lid open to allow it to air out a little. There often is a little time before I need to put another bag of trash in it, so I leave the lid open during that time.

- Ernest, via email

A fast route to healthier eating

April 30, 2015

Dear Readers: With our busy lives, and many of us spending a lot of time going to and from, it’s sure easy to  “drive through” a FAST-FOOD RESTAURANT to pick up dinner! Hey, I’m one of you.

After a full, busy day working on this column, doing phone work, checking and sending important emails, dealing with service folks, etc., I sure don’t want to fix dinner. Plus, it’s just David (my husband) and me now. Oh, yes, he usually is the one who “brings home the dinner,” since I work from my home office. Here are my personal Heloise hints for eating as healthy as possible:

- No FRIED food, or if it’s battered, I try to pick off the batter and skin. I do love french fries and onion rings, so I limit the amount I eat by putting a few on my plate, not eating from the bag. Side salads, soups and fruit slices are available, too. Skip mayo on a sandwich or burger (veggie for me), and  “86” (cancel) the cheese.

- Soft drinks are jam-packed with useless calories and cost a lot! Water for me, or iced tea.

- Gravies, high-calorie sauces and most salad dressings add more calories and fat than you might think. A taste or two usually is enough for me.

- Kids’ meals are perfect when I’m not famished. NO, you don’t have to be a kid to order one!

- Heloise


Easy shave

Dear Heloise: My wife, Shirley, reads me the hints in your column in The Washington Post. Here is my hint to make shaving almost nick-proof:

She has gotten me to use body lotion for dry skin. I now apply it to my face before the shaving cream - the result is miraculous! Shaving is easier and more effective. Hope you print this - I think a lot of men would benefit. Thanks for years of wonderful advice and suggestions.

- Gene, via email

Gene, give your wife a Heloise hug, and one to you for sharing your hint. For legs, I rub on a thin coat of baby oil or lotion before getting into the shower or bath. Then I use hair shampoo or conditioner over the oil and shave. No nicks and smooth skin.

- Heloise


Pet pal

Dear Readers: Jodi in Tennessee sent a photo of Sheeba, a Lab mix who followed Jodi and her husband home after a walk. Sheeba was just a puppy when she trotted up the hill to let them know she had picked them! Visit and click on  Pets.

- Heloise


Reuse and recycle

Dear Heloise: I buy large bags of dry dog food and wild birdseed. To make a small tarp, I cut the tops and bottoms off, then split them down one side. If larger is needed, I lay several down and tape them together. Tarps are expensive, and I have to buy dog food anyway.

- Martha C. in Virginia

This Sheet Frustrates Me!

April 23, 2015

Dear Readers: This week’s SOUND OFF is about too-short sheets:

“I am frustrated about bedsheet manufacturers selling top-of-the-line linens. They made accommodations for thicker mattresses. For that I am grateful. However, they have not added inches to the top sheet to make it long enough to tuck under the mattress at the foot of the bed.

“I use a satin pillowcase, so I have resorted to cutting up the pillowcases that come with the sheets and sewing them to the bottom of the top sheet. We want longer top sheets!” - E.S., via email

Stop! Don’t cut up a perfectly good pillowcase. I’ve done the same, but I just use an “odd” sheet. No one sees the bottom part except me. This is a good hint, too, for folks who are extra-tall and want more sheet. - Heloise 


Fast facts

Dear Readers: Other uses for fish tanks:

* Make into a terrarium.

* Use for very small animals.

* As a planter.

* Make a “fake”terrarium.

* As a storage container.

- Heloise


Nasty gnats

Dear Heloise: I have a number of houseplants, and I have a problem with gnats. I think they are coming from the plants. I have tried to cut back the amount of water I put on the plants, but the gnats seem to persist. Do you know of anything I could put in the water to discourage these pesky creatures?
- Margaret A., Marlin, Texas

Gnats do like damp, moist soil, so even if you are cutting back on watering, if the soil is still moist, the gnats will stay. Plus, they are there now! Quick fix: Let the top inch or two of the soil dry in between waterings, if you can.

Remove 2-3 inches of soil (just the top) and replace with fresh, new potting soil.

To kill the gnats that are there, use a cup of tap water and mix in a drop or two of liquid dish soap. Pour over the soil like you are watering it, until it’s saturated. Let it sit overnight, then flush with fresh, clean water. They should be gone! - Heloise


Damaged donations

Dear Heloise: I enjoy reading your column in the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun. I read your Sound Off about not donating useless or trashed items. I agree.

As an avid thrift shopper, I asked a volunteer about this, and her comment was that many people purchase this type of item for yard art and craft projects. I worry about children picking up these items and getting scratched or cut. I ask thrift stores to have a separate area for those items (and possibly reduced prices for damaged items). - Deb in Springfield, Ohio

Deb, thanks for the reminder! The old saying “One man’s trash is another’s treasure” really does ring true! They see a broken clay pot, I see pieces for the bottom of the next plant I am repotting. - Heloise

Heloise’s Kitcheneering

April 14, 2015

Dear readers: Here is this week’s Sound Off, about medication packaging:

“Do you know why pharmaceuticals package tablets in cards with individual plastic pods for each tablet? It can’t be a simpler task than just throwing them all in one container, as before. Many consumers, especially those with arthritic hands, may find it very bothersome to have to push the pills out one by one.”

- George C., via email

George, you are right on target! This seems to be a problem for a lot of my readers and a continuing complaint.

I am not sure why pharmaceutical companies do this, but here is a guess: This packaging may be cheaper, but I doubt it. Probably most important is that this packaging is harder for children to get into. Yes, and harder for adults, too. Depending on the drug and the manufacturer, the pharmacy may be able to tell you if it does come in a bottle rather than the blister packs - which, by the way, give me a blister when trying to pry out one or two pills.

- Heloise

Dear Readers: Other uses for socks with no match:

* Use to dust blinds and furniture.

* Fill with rice or beans and make into a warming pad.

* As a tug toy for dogs.

* Use as garden gloves in a pinch.

* Cut the toe off and pull over a bandage as protection.

- Heloise


Best bookmarks

Dear Readers: Many of you responded to a recent Sound Off about people bending the corners of library-book pages. You agreed that it is disrespectful to turn down the corners, and gave your suggestions on what to use as bookmarks. Here are just a few:

* Jon P. wrote, via email: “I always use the receipt the library gives me when I check out the book. Not only does it make a great bookmark, I am reminded when the book is due.”

* Chuck in Santa Ana, Calif., wrote: “The ‘bookmark’ I use primarily is a small sticky note. It sticks to the page, with no damage to the paper.”

* Toby in Port St. Lucie, Fla., wrote: “I’ve discovered the very best bookmark: a paper clip. It not only marks the page in your book, but also your place on the page. Another excellent side effect is that should you drop the book, the paper clip will stay in place, as opposed to a piece of paper.”

Thanks for all the great suggestions!

- Heloise


Stall searching

Dear Heloise: When I use a public restroom, many times the toilet paper is in a large, circular container. Most of the time the paper is not extended out to reach, so one has to guess where it is. It is frustrating trying to find the end. Here is what I do: I leave a bit hanging down so the next person will find the beginning of the paper and will not have to search!

- Joy H., Webster, S.D.









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