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Dear Heloise: There's been some debate about whether or not it's safe to eat a POTATO SKIN, due to chemicals and pesticides. Is it safe, and are there any health benefits? — Meredith W., Laramie, Wyo.

Meredith, first you'll need to wash those skins. A soft vegetable brush with water should do the trick for removing any pesticides.

To get all the nutrition a potato provides, you should eat the well-washed skins. Potato skins tend to be rich in iron, potassium and fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. — Heloise


Dear Heloise: For plastic foam egg cartons, I put a little water in each egg "cell" just in case an egg may have gotten stuck to the carton. The water dissolves any dried or stuck egg whites and prevents the eggs from adhering to the carton. This trick has saved me many eggs! — Geraldine W., Columbus, Ohio


Dear Heloise: Please reprint your Olive-Nut Dip recipe. My family and friends absolutely love it, and it's so easy to make! — Jessica D., Clearwater, Fla.

Jessica, this is one of my all-time favorites and seems to be popular with everyone who tries it. You'll need:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup real mayonnaise

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup sliced salad olives (with pimiento)

2 tablespoons juice from the olive jar

Dash of pepper (but no salt!)

Mix all the ingredients well and refrigerate for about one hour. You'll find this and several other delicious, easy-to-make recipes in my pamphlet All-Time Favorite Recipes. To get a copy, send $5, along with a stamped (71 cents), self-addressed, long envelope, to: Heloise/All-Time Favorites, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Or you can order it online at Spread this dip on sliced French bread or, if you want to save calories, on a crisp lettuce leaf. Yummy! — Heloise


Dear Heloise: Pouring batter into paper muffin liners was always a messy chore for me. Then I discovered that it's much easier if I use an ice-cream scoop to transfer the batter to the paper liners. It makes my muffins uniform in size and avoids a mess. — Pat B., Altoona, Pa.


Dear Heloise: I made a huge turkey with dressing for the holidays and suddenly realized I didn't have a trivet big enough to put this huge platter on. I have a beautiful wooden table and wanted to protect it, so I finally decided to use a muffin tin turned upside down. — Carlotta N., Ponca City, Okla.


Dear Heloise: I had a recipe that called for powdered sugar, but I didn't have any. I took granulated sugar and ran it through a coffee mill (grinder) twice and made my own powdered sugar! — Rhonda C., Bozeman, Mont.


Dear Heloise: To separate prepackaged bacon, start with the first slice on the back. — Norma W., Reading, Pa.


Dear Readers: This time of year, everyone is caught up in the hustle of the holidays, but don't forget to check on your neighbor. A senior who may be alone might appreciate a quick visit or phone call. — Heloise


Dear Heloise: I read Heloise every day in the Houston Chronicle. Have you noticed that many restaurants have replaced salt and pepper shakers with "grinders," necessitating wrapping your whole hand around the grinder?

I think this is unsanitary. Who knows where the person using grinders has had his hands? With shakers, it's easy to use a napkin. — James W., via email


Dear Heloise: We will be traveling to Chicago from Houston this winter, and we were wondering how we were going to carry our winter coats, mittens, etc. They are bulky!

Voila! I put the coats in those zip bags that you vacuum all the air out of, and they fit in a tote bag that we checked. We were able to pull out our coats at the baggage claim. Hope others find this helpful. — Jo Ann K., Pearland, Texas


Dear Readers: Here's a fun gift for youngsters: Take a roll of colorful duct tape and unfurl several lengths of it. Place coins down the sticky side of the tape — quarters, dimes, a rare silver dollar or half dollar, a "gold" dollar coin — and rewrap. Kids will have fun seeing what the tape will reveal!

Great discussions can ensue about history and money! — Heloise

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Dear Readers: The gifts have been opened, and most gifts are a "go." But what if you get something that you're not happy with? It should be no problem.

Companies today have generous return and exchange policies. Hopefully, the giver provided a gift receipt, but if not, visit the store or call the online retailer. They should be happy to accommodate you.

Return-shipping charges may be your responsibility, and there may be a time limit to return items. — Heloise


Dear Readers: Let's look through the archives and grab the best Letters of Laughter. — Heloise

"Dear Heloise: How times have changed! My nephew just asked me if I had any pierced earrings he could have! I searched my jewelry box and found a cute pair to give him! What generation gap?" — A.P. in San Antonio

"Dear Heloise: Another use for a bleach bottle: a megaphone! I cut the bottom off, and now my husband and kids can't say they can't hear me when I call them!" — F.R., via email

"Dear Heloise: When people would say, 'Don't cry over spilled milk,' it didn't cost almost $3 a gallon!" — J.P.

"Dear Heloise: My hopeless-in-the-kitchen newlywed daughter bought a coating mix for chicken, opened the package and exclaimed, 'Where's the chicken?" — O.H.

"Dear Heloise: My 7-year-old son told me that, because his feet were hurting, he grabbed 'those things' from the bathroom. You guessed it — he was wearing maxi pads as insoles in his shoes!" — S.M. in Maryland


Dear Heloise: When I place my child's car seat in the back of my vehicle, I put it on the car's passenger side if I plan to park on the street.

It takes time to get the child in and out of the car seat. If the car seat is on the driver's side, we are in the road while we do this. — Mary H., Arlington, Va.

Mary, great information. Also, a backward glance is easier to the passenger side of the vehicle! Read and follow the directions from the manufacturer. — Heloise


Dear Heloise: I get confused over "fewer than" and "less than." How can I remember the difference? — Jennifer E., age 12, via email

Jennifer, it's not too difficult! In general, use "fewer than" when you are referring to individual items you can count: potted plants, dictionaries and books, and blankets. Use "less than" when talking about bulk items or things that can't be counted. — Heloise

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