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.

Heloise’s Kitcheneering

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


Club waffles

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.

I 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 fluffy texture.

- 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.



Gather the following ingredients:

2 cups biscuit mix

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 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! - Heloise)

* 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


Easy open

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, etc.

- Luis M., Brea, Calif.


Kitchen safety

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 counter.

- Mike Levy, Westminster, Calif.

Put 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


Be prepared

Dear Readers: 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 crocheting.

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

Noisy appliances

Dear 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.

Keep track

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 on.
- Sue Pratt, via email









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