Dear Readers: The letter about department stores closing customer's charge accounts for inactivity hit a nerve. Here are just a few of the many reader responses:

Erin and Rebecca said, "If you keep your balance at zero, the store is not collecting interest or finance charges."

Betty wrote: "The company is making a power play. Managing the bottom line is important for business, but this threatening letter is a low-level business practice."

Bobbye said: "I had the same experience, but mine wasn't by a letter; I found out my account was closed when I was making a purchase. Talk about embarrassing!"

Readers, thank you for the feedback. Unless you get some benefit from a store card, you really don't need one. All major stores take national credit cards. Why get aggravated when you don't need to? -- Heloise

Makeup hints

Dear Heloise: Here are some of my favorite makeup hints I've learned over the years:

  • I blot my face with a tissue between moisturizer, primer, foundation and powder. It absorbs extra product, so there's a less cakey appearance.
  • Warming a hard eyeliner pencil between my fingers softens it so there are fewer harsh lines.
  • When I'm done, I take a step back and look in the mirror to get the whole "picture," and many times see that my eye shadow or blush may be a little too much. -- Antoinette B. in California

Readers, do you open your mouth to apply mascara? I do, and don't know why. Anyone? -- Heloise

No-mess ice

Dear Heloise: I make ice for a small cooler by freezing water in small plastic food-storage bags and laying them flat in the freezer. The cooler will not have water in the bottom as the ice melts, and you can reuse the bags. -- Ruth in North Canton, Ohio

Email problem

Dear Heloise: When I find a product I really like, I use it for a few years, and then it's discontinued on every store shelf in town! I go online, only to find that I have to sign up and build a file with my email address so they can fill up my email with offers and sales on almost a daily basis!

It's either live with it, or do without a product you really like. Argh! -- Darlynn in Salem, Oregon

Open a "dummy" email account that you use only for internet sites such as you described. The unwanted email goes there! -- Heloise (

Are eggs fresh?

Dear Heloise: I never know how to determine whether eggs are still freish. I remember something about putting them in water. Help? -- Vivian M., Westfield, Massachusetts

Vivian, help is here, and it's an easy egg hint! Fill a bowl/glass with room-temperature water. Put an egg in it. If it floats, it's an older egg; if it sinks to the bottom, it's a fresher egg. -- Heloise

P.S. If you are using the eggs to "hard boil" (really it's "hard cook" -- you should boil the eggs for no more than a minute, then turn the heat off, cover the pot and let it sit for 15 minutes), use older eggs. Fresh ones do not have much of an air pocket and are harder to peel.

Coffee hints

Dear Readers: Do's and don'ts for making good coffee:

  • Start with a clean coffeepot.
  • Use fresh, clean water.
  • Do use the proper grind for the method you choose for brewing.
  • Do drink it right away! -- Heloise

A la ... what?

Dear Heloise: I'm confused! I see the term "A la this or that" on menus and have no idea what it means. I don't do a lot of cooking and never learned what some of these culinary terms mean. -- Rochelle R., Blaine, Minnesota

Rochelle, don't fret! You are not alone! Here are three explanations for you from my book "In the Kitchen With Heloise."

"A la king": Food that's been prepared in a rich cream sauce.

"A la mode": It's French for "in the manner of." If you see this in reference to a dessert, it means "with ice cream."

"Al dente": It's an Italian term for cooking pasta so that the teeth can feel it. Pasta should never be overcooked. -- Heloise

Disposal smell

Dear Heloise: My garbage disposal has a terrible odor. I tried grinding lemons in it, but that gave me only a temporary solution. In a small kitchen like mine, a smelly garbage disposal is a serious problem! -- Sally T., Rock Hill, South Carolina

Sally, here are some hints to banish garbage disposal odors:

When you use limes/lemons/grapefruit, follow up with lots of running cold water.

Try a few drops of peppermint oil or spearmint in a cup of water, then put that into the disposal

Put the stopper in, fill the sink with hot water, then pull the plug and run the disposal.

If the odor persists, there may be a buildup of "gunk" under the splash guard. Try cleaning the underside of the black splash guard with hot, soapy water. -- Heloise

P.S. It's important to run cold water for 30 seconds or so to push whatever you are getting rid of through the plumbing.

'Berry' good idea

Dear Heloise: Blackberries, blueberries, etc., are sold in grocery stores in clear plastic clamshell packs. Placing a rubber band around a box prevents an "explosion" if you drop one. Good shopping. -- George B., via email

Space saver

Dear Heloise: Living alone, I use very few dishes, so I handwash them. My dishwasher wasn't being used, so I turned it into a pantry!

I use the top rack for canned goods, the lower rack for packaged food and dry goods and the silverware rack for large cooking utensils.

The drawer that held the utensils now gives me space to store my spices. I lay the spices in the drawer label side up.

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No more standing on a step stool to find what I need in the tall cupboards. This is convenient, and it lessens the chance of falling.

Once a month or so, I remove everything from the racks and run the dishwasher for cleaning. -- Debbie C., Warren, Ohio

Great way to make the most of every inch of space! -- Heloise 

Bath mash

Dear Heloise: I love to take a relaxing bath while giving myself a healthy, natural facial. I finely mash an avocado and mix in a few drops of witch hazel.

I swirl it on my face and relax in the bath for 30 minutes, then rinse. My skin feels smooth. -- Janice D. in 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

Save it for later

Dear Heloise: I read your column (regularly). I want to keep some of your hints to reference later.

To hold your column until I'm ready to "laminate" (with tape) the front side, I lay the back side of the newspaper column against the sticky side of leakproof sealing wrap. Then I cover the front side of the article with the clear packaging tape.

Now I can cut it out and tape it to the fridge, microwave, a mirror, a notebook or wherever I want, and it is protected from splashes. -- Jackie in Santa Ana

Hint from him

Dear Heloise: There's no need to slice yourself instead of your bagel. Lay the bagel flat, cut first downward so that you have two semicircles. Then stand each half-bagel on its flat cut and slice downward again.

Four perfect quarter-bagels that still fit in the toaster just fine. If you then insist on having circles again, just spackle the pieces together with a little extra cream cheese! -- Neil S., Falls Church, Virginia

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