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Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about the fees charged by stores for the privilege of shopping there:

"Dear Heloise: There are a couple of large discount stores that charge a fee to shop there, and frankly, I don't understand why I need to pay for a discount! I asked the clerk why I had to pay for the 'privilege' of spending my money in that store, and the clerk said that they have a low markup on all items, and the fees are the main source of the company's revenue. As a businesswoman, I find that difficult to believe." -- Lori M. in Dallas

Readers, how do you feel about paying a fee to shop at a particular store? -- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some uses for stale bread:

  • Make croutons out of it and freeze them for future use.
  • Stale bread is best for bread pudding.
  • You can crumble it and put it in a meatloaf or use it in stews (to thicken the sauce). -- Heloise

Here's the scoop

Dear Heloise: I recently bought a new large-capacity washing machine. I was very disappointed to find that I cannot reach small items at the bottom of the washer. Plus, I have a bad back. So, I went to a pet store and bought a "pooper-scooper" for dogs. It is a one-handed spring-action claw. It works great to reach those items at the bottom of the washer. This has made my life so much easier. -- Debbie H., Springfield, Missouri

Packing materials

Dear Heloise: So many companies now use those little air-filled pillows for packing, and while they can be reused for packing, I found out that they also can be used to wrap a wrist, elbow or ankle to protect an injured area and cushion it from being bumped into or reinjured. -- Maddie G., Lawton, Oklahoma

Maddie, thank you for that hint. Do any of my readers have any other suggestions for the air-filled plastic that's now commonly used for packing? -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: My husband and I got married three weeks ago. After pricing weddings, gowns, reception expenses, flowers and more, we decided to elope. We married in Houston, and that afternoon we flew to Maui, Hawaii, for a seven-day honeymoon. When we got back, we had a party to let everyone know we'd gotten married, and sent out notices to relatives to inform them of our marriage. Unless someone really needs a big wedding, it's less expensive and much more romantic to elope. By eloping, we saved $20,000 that we'll put down on a cute little house we've found. -- Meg and Brian R. in Houston

And readers, here's another letter about weddings that was received the same day as the one above. -- Heloise

Dear Heloise: I spent an exorbitant amount of money on a beautiful wedding dress for my wedding last fall. We spent thousands on flowers, and the reception cost a fortune. Now I wish I had eloped. The cost of this wedding has prevented us from taking a vacation or buying a house. My parents helped us, but we took the responsibility of most of the debt. My expensive dream wedding is now a nightmare! -- Julie in Michigan

Saving stories

Dear Heloise: Often I'll find an interesting story about someone or an event, and instead of saving the whole newspaper or magazine, I'll remove just the pages with the article I enjoy, staple it together and file it away. My children and grandchildren love reading about events I lived through, such as the moonwalk, the Kennedy years, the Vietnam War, the civil-rights struggle and other major events. -- Diane S., Trenton, New Jersey

Devoted reader

Dear Heloise: I love reading your column regularly. Here are two hints I'd like to share:

1. An empty tea-light holder is a perfect place to store your rolled-up fabric measuring tape.

2. The plastic cover from a store-bought cake can be reused/recycled as a drip tray for a plant. -- Dawn W., Fredericksburg, Virginia

Wedding views

Dear Heloise: Please tell brides to step outside for a moment when trying on wedding gowns, especially if they are having an outdoor ceremony. This way, they can tell whether sunlight shows everything under the skirt. I had to make a last-minute slip out of a nightgown when I discovered this mistake at my wedding. If I had known about this before the wedding, I'd have bought a half slip! -- Julianna T., Bettendorf, Iowa

Wear it again?

Dear Heloise: Why do brides tell their bridesmaids that the dresses they've chosen for their attendants can be worn again? Six times I've heard, "Just shorten the skirt and you have a cocktail dress." One of my bridesmaid dresses was in black-and-white stripes! Lined up at the altar, we looked like an overdressed chain gang! I wish brides would just pick simple styles with no adornment for their attendants so we really could wear them again. -- Connie A. in Boston

Silk flowers

Dear Heloise: In response to cleaning silk flowers, a designer of silk flowers recommended using a hair dryer once a month to blow dust off flowers. It works! -- Judy I., The Villages, Florida

Judy, I've tried this method, and yes, it works like a charm! -- Heloise

What's your sign

Dear Heloise: Homeowners should make sure their address is easily visible from the street. I have had to call friends to ensure I was at the correct house because the house number was not visible at night.

This could be a potentially dangerous situation if an emergency response vehicle (e.g., ambulance, police, fire company) had to take extra time to find your address. -- Beatrice G., Hazleton, Pennsylvania

Check with your city government to see what it recommends, and for hints on painting your house number on the curb. -- Heloise

Extra button

Hi, Heloise: I enjoy your column. Whenever I buy an article of clothing with an extra button included, I write a description of the article and the month and year I bought it on the price tag, and staple it to the little bag containing the button.

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I keep all of these in a box. Every year or two, I go through the box and pull any buttons for articles to go to donation. This method also helps me find the extra button I need quickly. -- Karen D. in San Antonio

Great attention to detail, Karen! -- Heloise

Solar lights

Dear Heloise: I wanted to do something special for my beloved mother when she passed away; silk flowers fade quickly.

I found twinkling solar lights, and I thought this was the perfect thing to put by her headstone. The twinkling of the lights in the evening made a joyful sight. -- Helen J., Columbus, Ohio

My condolences on the loss of your precious mom, Helen. Moms are the best. Readers, how do you honor your parents who have passed on? -- Heloise

Leave a message!

Dear Heloise: Why do people call and not leave a message? I may just be in the yard, with the dog outside or in the shower. Please leave me a message! -- A Reader, Youngstown, Ohio

Pins in tins

Dear Heloise: Every time I get a safety pin from the dry cleaners, I store it in a little tin that once held breath mints. You never know when you'll need a safety pin, and it recycles both the pin and the tin. -- Nell F., Ellsworth, Maine 

Recycling check

Dear Heloise: In response to the reader who tries to be green and wanted to know where he can recycle plastic foam: I recommend that the reader check with his city's or county's solid waste agency. Our agency's site lets us enter a product online and tells where that item can be recycled in the jurisdiction. -- Liz B., via email

Houseplant helper

Dear Heloise: Crushed eggshells are a great fertilizer for houseplants. I save them up until I have about two dozen. I don't rinse them, for fear of washing away wonderful nutrients, but I let them dry completely, and crush them into fine pieces in a zippered bag.

I dig a shallow ditch under the plant, sprinkle in the shells, then re-cover and water as usual. Oh my! The plants nearly double in size, and they are covered in blooms! -- B.J., via email

Hair conditioner

Dear Heloise: Rub an inexpensive hair conditioner into bare nails, cuticles, toes and heels at night, but be sure to wear socks to keep the sheets clean. Your nails will feel and appear stronger and healthier. -- Sharon L. in San Antonio


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