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
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.
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.
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
Before mulching an area, layer with shredded paper and then wet
Recycle shredded materials in the paper recycling bin along with
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.
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
Jo-Ann F. in San Antonio
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
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.
Carts in handicapped
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!”
just plop the bag into a large zip bag!
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.
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
Call a fabric store or get on the Internet, and the “iron- of your
dreams is waiting for you! Keep on sewing!
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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
www.Heloise.com and click on Pets.
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
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. -
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.
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
- 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
April 9, 2015
Is mustard left out?
Dear Heloise: Do you have to refrigerate mustard after opening it? I
would prefer mine at room temperature.
Jim D. in Nebraska
No, you don’t! And I’m with you about the temperature. Commercial
mustard does not contain anything that might spoil. However,
manufacturers still do suggest refrigerating specialty mustards, like
Dijon or horseradish-style mustards, for best taste, but they still will
not spoil if left out. - Heloise
Dear Heloise: I am a native Texan and resident of Spring, Texas. I enjoy
the columns in the Houston Chronicle and recall my father-in-law reading
your mother’s column for many years - he swore by her guidance.
recently bought biscuit mix and club soda in order to prepare those
terrific pancakes from your mom - but now I cannot locate the recipe.
Please reprint it so we can once again enjoy their great taste and
Sandy B., Spring, Texas
Sandy, how nice, and thanks for the kind words. It always makes me smile
when someone mentions a hint that was learned from my mother’s (the
original Heloise, 1919-1977) column.
HELOISE CLUB WAFFLES
Gather the following ingredients:
cups biscuit mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cups club soda
In a large bowl, place all the ingredients and mix with a large spoon.
Do not overmix! Cook immediately, or the mix will go flat. Delicious
waffles are on the way! - Heloise
P.S.: Make two batches, and freeze one for a morning when you don’t want
to fuss! - Heloise
Tea ball uses
Dear Readers: A recent column asked for hints about other uses for tea
balls. Here are just a few:
Marian Ballard, via email, said: “Though I do occasionally use a tea
ball, I have two. I fill one with cinnamon or a cinnamon-sugar mixture
and have an instant shaker that gives even coverage.” (Love it! -
Mark W. in Reading, Pa., wrote: “A couple of other uses for tea balls:
Put a couple of garlic cloves in one and suspend in cooking soup for the
flavor but not the chunks.
“Tea balls make great scent diffusers. Put a few drops of scented oil on
a cotton ball in a tea ball. This can then be placed in drawers, hung in
closets or even put in your car.”
All good hints. Keep them coming! - Heloise
Dear Heloise: When I empty a can of refried beans, I open the can and
turn it upside down on a plate or bowl. Then I use a can opener (that
makes a “v” shape) to make a hole on the bottom of the can. Lift it up
and all the beans come out clean. Same thing works for dog-food cans,
Luis M., Brea, Calif.
Dear Heloise: You can use a wooden cutting board to slide under a hot
baking sheet and remove it from the oven so you can safely put it on the
Mike Levy, Westminster, Calif.
the bite on 'Energy Vampires'
April 2, 2015
Dear Heloise: Here’s
a hint most people probably never thought of. If you have an elderly
parent who no longer drives or have an elderly neighbor in the same
situation, think about whether there’s a car in the driveway. If not,
that makes the home more of a target for burglars, etc.
If you need more
space to park a car, ask your neighbor or relative if you can park the
car in his or her driveway. This is a win-win situation: You have a
space for your car, and your neighbor has a car in the drive to help
make the home look occupied. We do this for my mom, and park our second
car in her driveway several nights a week.
It’s also a good
hint to remember if your relative or neighbor is in the hospital or
rehab center for several days or weeks. - Amy P., Decatur, Ala.
Melted ice cubes
Dear Heloise: I
believe you had a hint on how to tell if your power was out for a length
of time. It involved an ice cube. - John C., via email
I sure do, John, and
it is very simple. Take a few ice cubes and place them in a zippered bag
and then in the freezer. If you return and see that the cubes have
melted, then it’s a good guess that the power went out for a
considerable amount of time. - Heloise
Waiting rooms at hospitals usually are the last place anyone wants to
be. If you know you are going to be there for a while, go prepared. As
the saying goes, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” With
that being said, bring your cellphone charger in case you drain the
battery waiting. The old-fashioned way would be a crossword or a good
book you’ve been longing to read. Maybe now would be the time to take up
Please do not forget
about etiquette in the waiting room. If you have children with you,
please bring something to entertain them. Also, don’t let them run wild
or make a lot of noise. - Heloise
Recently, my dishwasher started making horrible noises. Because it
didn’t do it all the time, I grabbed my cellphone and recorded it. I
played it for the repairman, who knew right away what the problem was.
- Kris Powell, Lincoln, Neb.
Dear Heloise: A
couple of times a year, I clean my blinds a slat at a time with soap and
water. It never fails that the phone rings, someone comes to the door or
someone needs something. I can’t find where I left off. Just turning the
blind didn’t work. Now, I clip a clothespin to the last blind I worked
- Sue Pratt, via email