Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about airfares offered in an ad, and what it really takes to get those fares:

"Dear Heloise: I've lost all patience with travel websites that advertise round-trip airfares at significant savings. The problem: You never can actually find these fares. You can spend hours adjusting the dates, hours and departure location and still not find the advertised fare. There should be a law requiring travel websites to clearly state what days are associated with the advertised fare. Then consumers can decide if it's right for them or not." -- Sterling D., Dayton, Ohio

Sterling, there are laws about false advertising, but one answer to this problem would be to phone the travel agency that placed the ad and ask how you can get the advertised fare. The agency placed the ad, so let them do the work to find you the best deal possible. -- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Heloise: I saw your recycling suggestions on amber pill bottles, so I thought I'd send you some of my uses for the empty containers:

  • I keep one filled with mints so they don't get scattered in my purse.
  • I keep loose change in them.
  • I use one to hold tiny things, such as screws for my glasses, earring backs, safety pins, etc.
  • I also carry an additional supply of cream sunblock in one. -- A Reader, via email

And here's another hint about amber pill bottles:

"I saw the amber pill bottle reuse suggestions, and I thought I'd send in one of my own. Here in Hawaii, it is a custom of ours to have a 'House Blessing' when you buy a new place. After we bought our home, my husband and I composed a prayer and wrote it out on paper, then folded it very small and placed it in a pill container. Later in the evening, we had an open house with family and friends, and the minister blessed the house. We then took the pill container, with the prayer inside it, buried it in a deep hole in the front yard and planted a mango tree on top. This house has weathered hurricanes, storms, four kids and six dogs in 15 years, and it's still here." -- Malia K., Oahu, Hawaii

Floral vases

Dear Heloise: When you accumulate a number of floral vases and containers that you don't want to keep, call a local florist and ask if it would be interested in reusing them. Sometimes the florist will even pick them up and offer to pay for them. -- Linda M., via email

Key is graphite

Dear Heloise: A locksmith once told me never to use a household lubricant on a key lock. There is one very popular lubricant in a can that many people use, but on a lock, it just causes a gummy buildup. Instead, use graphite -- white graphite if you can find it, black if you can't. -- Lois B. in Arkansas

Did you know?

Dear Readers: Although only about the size of a golf ball, the blue-ringed octopus has enough poison to kill an adult human in a matter of minutes. -- Heloise 

Houseguest pest

Dear Heloise: I have an issue with my husband's sister. She always drops by unannounced, usually at dinnertime. I've asked her to call first, as we both have cellphones, but she ignores me. If she drops by and my hubby is outside, I let him deal with her. She lives five blocks away and has never invited us to her house. How should I handle this? -- Mary T., via email

Mary, you didn't mention why she's not welcome, but here are a couple of ideas:

  • Have your husband sit down with her and explain the rules of your home. Perhaps he can persuade her to respect your wishes.
  • She must enjoy your company, which actually is a compliment. However, if she continues to disrespect your rules and privacy, give her times and dates when she is allowed to stop over, such as 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays or noon to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
  • If all else fails, you could start acting as she does and just drop in on her whenever you feel like it. -- Heloise

Working from home

Dear Heloise: What do I say to people who ask when I'm going to get a real job instead of working from home? I have a 4-year-old child and a 6-month-old infant, and I feel fortunate to be able to work as an illustrator for children's books from my home. -- Linda T., Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania

Linda, tell them that you feel very fortunate to be able to spend time with your children while working at a job you love. -- Heloise

Towel trouble

Dear Heloise: I hate the "new" washing machines. I like water to fill the tub. My towels have an odor like mildew.

I hope you can help me. I'm glad you picked up where your mom left off. -- Dana W., Memphis, Tennessee

Hi, Dana. Yes, I can help you. Here are some hints:

  • Don't overload the washer.
  • Layer towels evenly in the washer.
  • Fabric softener is not good for towels -- it can impede absorption.
  • Using the hottest washer setting, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of baking soda with a small amount of detergent in the washer. Launder as usual, and dry. This should help eliminate the sour smell.

Did you know that baking soda is a workhorse around the house? It's great for cooking, cleaning and beauty -- a multitude of uses for only pennies per use!

I've compiled my favorite baking soda hints and recipes in a handy pamphlet -- would you like to receive one? It's easy! Visit and click on the upper right corner of the home page to order, or send a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope, along with $5, to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio TX 78279-5001. Make a paste of baking soda, warm water and soap to scrub hands with. -- Heloise

Exchange club

Dear Heloise: I think you might like this and pass it on. I live in a retirement community. Every other year, our card club has a home decor exchange and luncheon.

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The ladies bring their items to my house, and I stage them, then we shop. The items left over, we donate. The following year we do fashion items, which includes clothing, shoes, jewelry and more.

What a great way to reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle! -- Georgia C., via fax

Auto incorrect?

Dear Heloise: I'm so accustomed to my cellphone offering "autocorrect" that I wish my PC would do the same! True, I have spellcheck, but that autocorrect is faster! -- Jimmy Y. in St. Louis

Belt bags

Dear Heloise: I keep an old leather belt in the trunk to loop through handles of shopping bags to carry more of them more easily! -- Jenna B. in Arizona

Removing fingerprints

Dear Heloise: I use the last slice of white bread on my walls. I mash it into a ball, then sort of mush it into a smudge or fingerprint to remove it. -- Dannie T., Dayton, Ohio

Head to the mall?

Dear Heloise: I'm wondering how your readers feel about shopping malls? When I was a kid, I loved spending time at the mall with my friends; some malls had carousels, ice-skating rinks and movie theaters, and they all had wonderful food courts with delicious choices of eats. But now so many malls are going out of business.

In San Antonio, we still have malls that are doing well, but off-price stores and shopping online are gaining in popularity.

Will your readers always go to the mall? Do you like the energy there? The service? The people? It was convenient to have all the big stores under one roof, and years ago, I used to walk in the mall for exercise. That was fun.

The salespeople in the kiosks outside of the stores can be pretty pushy, but I've learned to just say, "No, thank you."

Is the shopping mall becoming a thing of the past? Hopefully not! -- Jana B., Helotes, Texas

Readers, what do you say about the shopping mall? I've done many book signings in many malls over the years -- a great place to come together! -- Heloise

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio TX 78279-5000; fax: 1-210-HELOISE; email: