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Forgotten ones

Dear Readers: Today's Sound Off is about spouses who forget important occasions:

"Dear Heloise: For the fifth year in a row, my husband has forgotten our wedding anniversary. A year after we were married, he stopped taking me out for my birthday. Many men, like him, work hard, don't abuse their wives and love their kids, but they alienate their wives by missing special occasions. I grew up in a house where Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and more were to be celebrated and enjoyed. To me and many women like me, ignoring these occasions is the same as saying, 'You don't matter to me anymore.' I wish men would remember the old saying, 'Happy wife means a happy life.'" -- Betty R., Tulsa, Oklahoma

Betty, I hope your husband reads this column, as well as all the other men who forget or ignore the things that strengthen the bonds between husband and wife. -- Heloise

Fast facts

Dear Readers: Here are some uses for leftover wallpaper:

  • Use as shelf liners or to wrap around smooth canisters.
  • Take to a copier store and have custom place mats made by having the desired size encased in plastic to match your kitchen decor.
  • Use to make book covers. -- Heloise

Great gifts

Dear Heloise: I wrap gifts in reusable shopping bags. These can be purchased anywhere in a variety of colors, patterns, etc. Add some tissue paper, a few strands of curly ribbon, and voila -- two gifts in one! -- Betsy S., Fredericksburg, Virginia

Holiday trends

Dear Heloise: It is holiday party season, and I wanted to share some hints about dressing up without busting the budget. These work for me! Here we go:

  • Basic black is a good starting point, but I go easy on "pops" of color.
  • "Subtle" is the key word. You can use a basic black dress or pants set over and over just by changing accessories: a scarf, blouse, shoe or earring.
  • Trends -- I avoid them. A ripped neckline doesn't look chic at a party.
  • I look in the men's department for upscale T-shirts -- they are cheaper than in the ladies' department.
  • Party clothes have to be comfortable. Chances are, you'll be on your feet for a long time, and itchy clothes are a no-go.
  • Look for bargains at secondhand and resale shops. I can find high-quality designer pieces at good prices. -- Shelly S. in Chicago

Christmas cleaning

Dear Readers: Let's get your home in shape for friends and family with a deep cleaning of your living areas. Here are some major areas to cover:

Vacuuming under all furniture and rugs is a good way to start. Wipe down and dust the baseboards, and dust the ceiling fans.

Following the manufacturer's instructions, moisturize any leather furniture, and buff and dust wood furniture.

Check labels and refresh window treatments and draperies. If you have them, wash artificial plants to make them pretty again.

Flip the mattress (if it flips), and consider new pillows, pillowcases and sheets.

These hints should refresh your home for company! -- Heloise

Data deletion

Dear Heloise: Most people think that by deleting material on their computer, they have effectively erased all of their past personal data. Well, they haven't! If you are going to dispose of an old computer, it's always best to make sure that none of your personal information is on there. The steps are too long to go into in your column, but people probably should hire a professional, who can protect them by erasing all of their personal data. Don't risk letting someone get hold of your banking or investing information, as well as the addresses of family and friends. -- Glen D., Titusville, Florida

Problem solved

Dear Heloise: I have a solution to missing socks. I bought some 2-inch safety pins, paired up the socks and wove the pin through the toes of each pair. My wonderful husband unpins them in the a.m. and re-pins them in the p.m. when going to bed. Then they are tossed into the laundry basket together. If the sock material fades a little, it all stays the same. -- Carole M., Kettering, Ohio

Emergency phone

Dear Heloise: I really don't need a mobile phone at home, but I keep a simple, no-contact phone hidden in the center console of my car just in case I need it. Pay phones are nearly a thing of the past, so this would be helpful in an urgent situation, like a flat tire, or worse. -- Carol J., York, Pennsylvania

Carol, great idea, but be sure that phone is charged when you need it. Readers, check out the next letter for another cellphone hint. -- Heloise

A quick tip

Dear Heloise: I have a quick tip about cellphone contacts. When I add a doctor or other business as a contact, I always take a picture of the address and hours from the website or business card, and save it as the contact image. It is helpful to have that info handy whenever I need to call. -- Tamaron J., Reynoldsburg, Ohio

Reference checks

Dear Heloise: I've worked in human resources for over 20 years, and I have a piece of advice for job applicants: Please do not have a friend or family member call a place where you once worked and pretend to be a potential employer doing a background check. I know everyone is curious, but there are some serious problems that might knock you out of the running for a job you really want:

  • No matter how much someone wants to help you, it's entirely possible he or she will ask illegal questions (such as date of birth) or get too inquisitive about your work history. This sets off a red flag. We wonder what you're so afraid we'll find out.
  • Don't assume you can sue a former employer just because your friend heard negative information from the person he or she spoke to. Your friend's word will not hold up in court, especially if the information is true. -- A Reader, via email


Dear Heloise: Very often, I would run out of the house without my phone, because it was charging in another room. Now I put a sticky note on top of my purse that says "phone" to remind me to grab it.

I also have one for "water" to remind me to take the water in the fridge. -- Jeri G., Washington, D.C.

Leftover hint

Dear Heloise: In response to Betsy M., who said her husband refuses to eat leftovers, I said the same thing to my wife about three weeks after we were married. She handed me an apron and pointed toward the kitchen. If I wanted original meals every night, she said I should get busy and start cooking. That was 46 years ago, and I've been a good boy ever since. By the way, I eat leftovers! -- Stanley H., Leesburg, Virginia

The following letter has another hint about leftovers. -- Heloise

No leftovers?

Dear Heloise: To help the new bride whose hubby won't eat leftovers, I suggest she call them "planned-overs." That's what I have called them for years, and it goes over much better with my family. -- Lisa R., Cayce, South Carolina

Coffee fund

Dear Heloise: My daughter was recently hospitalized. Several nurses and support staff did an excellent job of caring for her.

Instead of buying a bouquet of fresh flowers that will eventually die, I bought a container of live plants and suggested that the staff auction it off after seven days. The proceeds went to the staff's coffee fund. I was told that it worked out very well. -- Luetta S., via email

The payoff

Dear Heloise: My friends and I are trying something new. We are taking one day per week and making it a "No Spend Day." The goal is to spend absolutely no money during the course of that one day. Sounds great, right? It's not as easy as it sounds, and it requires planning.

The biggest plan necessary is for lunch and snacks at work and school. This can be an incredible expense. We didn't realize how much money we are actually spending!

We shop for meals one day per week and make a list to take to the store, and stick to that list.

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We are college students, and every penny is important to us. The "no spend" challenge is a hard one, but it's worth it! We can see the difference in our bank accounts. -- Carrie S., Austin, Texas

Kudos, Carrie! Planning ahead? I'm in. Saving dollars? I'm in! -- Heloise

Hey, watch it!

Dear Heloise: I enjoy your column. Can't we buy a windup watch anymore? Many big-box retailers won't change batteries for watches unless you've purchased the watch from them.

I hope I can put a "bug" in someone's ear to get manufacturers to make windup watches. -- A Senior Citizen in Pittsburgh

Handful of hints

Dear Heloise: Here are some of my hints:

  • With a felt pen, I label and date everything I put into my refrigerator.
  • I made a throw with a large pocket for the arm of my rocker. I keep a flashlight, a phone and the TV remote in it.
  • On the end table, I have a pen and paper. Each time I call a company for repairs or anything, I write down the name of the company, the date and time, and the phone number I called.
  • When I bake cookies, I freeze and wrap them separately. I can pack them for lunches. -- Elaine H., Port Charlotte, Florida

Right name

Dear Heloise: I taught my kids the correct words for their body parts, not cute "baby-talk" terms. It was difficult at first, I admit, but many experts say that we need to be real with our children at all times. Embarrassment passes quickly.

This could come in handy if the child has a medical issue. The child may have to talk to a teacher, doctor or other authority figure. We need to understand our kids! -- Sarah D. in North Carolina

Honesty is always best. Very young children may not understand big words, but do the best you can. -- 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: